Strange bedfellows? Secret documents discovered by Human Rights Watch and Britain's Independent newspaper reveal close intelligence ties between Washington, London and Tripoli as part of the West's war on terror.
The documents suggest that the UK's MI6 and the US' CIA held a regular dialogue with Libyan intelligence services, particularly with Libya's former Intelligence Chief Mussa Kussa, who defected to Qatar and then London just days after the Libyan uprising began.
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Human Rights Watch claimed on Saturday that it has discovered hundreds of communiqués between the CIA, MI6 and Koussa, found in his private offices in Tripoli. They detail, among other things, how the British and American secret services helped Muammar Gaddafi persecute Libyan dissidents.
According to one of the files, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, Libya’s provisional government's current military chief, was among those captured and sent to Libya by the CIA.
The files (Photo: Reuters)
“Among the files we discovered at Moussa Koussa’s office is a fax from the CIA, dated 2004, in which the CIA informs the Libyan government that they are in a position to capture and render Belhadj,” Peter Bouckaert of HWR said. “That operation actually took place. He was captured by the CIA in Asia and put on a secret flight back to Libya where he was interrogated and tortured by the Libyan security services.
“The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to al-Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” Bouckaert added.
Belhadj has claimed he was tortured by CIA agents before being transferred to Libya, where he was then tortured at Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison.
Western intelligence services first began cooperating with Libya after Gaddafi abandoned his nonconventional weapons program in 2004. Still, the documents suggest that CIA and MI6 ties may have ran deeper than previously thought.
The CIA declined to comment on the documents, saying only that the US works with foreign governments in an effort to fight terrorism. A British government spokesman said the UK did “not comment on intelligence matters.”
"It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said. "That is exactly what we are expected to do."
Reuters and AP contributed to this report
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