Former jihad leader to bin Laden: Step back from fighting

Noman Benotman, previously leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, urges bin Laden to consider a six-month cease fire.

September 12, 2010 03:29
3 minute read.
Illustrative photo

al qaida camel 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

LONDON - A former jihadist leader who spent several years with Osama bin Laden published an open letter on Friday calling for him to end al- Qaida’s “armed struggle.”

Noman Benotman, a former senior leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who in the 1990s spent several years with bin Laden in Afghanistan and Sudan, published the letter through the London-based anti-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation.

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Published in Arabic, English and Urdu, Benotman asks his former friend and colleague to call off his armed struggle, beginning with a unilateral six-month cease-fire to allow al-Qaida’s leaders’ time to reconsider their direction and understanding of Islam.

“I recommend that al-Qaida announce a unilateral halt to its military operations for a period of six months to take a step back from fighting to study and consider the organization’s vision, approach and strategy; to explore public opinion in Muslim communities around the world and seek the guidance of those Islamic scholars who have rejected his approach and concept of Jihad,” Benotman said.

“Your actions have harmed millions of innocent Muslims and non- Muslims alike. How is this Islam or jihad? For how much longer will al- Qaida continue to bring shame on Islam, disrupt ordinary Muslims’ lives, and be the cause of global unrest? “What has the September 11 brought to the world except mass killings, occupations, destruction, hatred of Muslims, humiliation of Islam, and a tighter grip on the lives of ordinary Muslims by the authoritarian regimes that control Arab and Muslim states?” he asked.

The open letter will be circulated on jihadist Web forums and through the Arabic-language media.

The missive also reveals that before 9/11, bin Laden’s plans to launch worldwide attacks in defiance of the Taliban were strongly opposed by individuals within al-Qaida, including Abu Muhammad al-Zayyat, the head of al-Qaida’s security committee.

Last month, Benotman was appointed as senior analyst at Quilliam.

He heads the foundation’s work on the de-radicalization processes in the UK and the foundation’s outreach to current and former extremists. The former jihadist is able to use his inside knowledge of jihadist groups and al-Qaida in his work.

Benotman said: “I have written this letter because I believe that it is time to start a debate within Muslim communities about terrorism, extremism and its effects. The news today of an American preacher planning to burn the Koran shows the damage that al-Qaida has done to the image of Islam and Muslims in the West.

“We also need to start a debate with bin Laden himself. He is not a prophet, he is just a human being.

We need to begin a debate with him, to make him change his mind.

American bombs have not made him change his mind, but maybe our words will. Al-Qaida has been criticized before, but this time the criticism is coming from someone who was there with them, in Afghanistan, in the fight against the Soviet Union and afterwards,” he said.

Benotman said it is time for the violence and killing to stop.

“Also, I hope this letter will give hope to Muslim scholars and others who are already fighting against al- Qaida. They need to know that they are not alone. We, as Muslims, have to say that enough is enough, it is time for the violence and killing to stop,” he declared.

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