Senior American Muslim Leader Placed on Libyan Terror List

Dr. Esam Omeish (Screenshot from video)

Senior U.S. Muslim leader Esam Omeish has been listed as an “international member of the Muslim Brotherhood” by one of the rival governments currently battling for supremacy in Libya, as reported by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. A second American, Aly Abuzaakouk, was also featured on the list.

Omeish was formerly head of the Muslim Brotherhood linked Muslim American Society (MAS). He is now a senior figure in the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. He intends to sue and wants those who designated him “legally prosecuted for fraud, slander and defamation” and prevented from travelling to America.

Abuzaakouk was formerly the Foreign Minister for the Libyan Government of National Salvation. The Government of National Salvation was a government set up by the General National Congress (GNC) and was a Muslim-Brotherhood-dominated parliament established by Islamist militias following their electoral defeat in the June 2014 election. They regard that election as illegitimate, citing low voter turnout.

The Libyan House of Representatives, which just published this list of alleged terrorists, is the secularist dominated parliament which won the 2014 election. Although the Supreme Court ruled the House of Representatives as unconstitutional, the HoR rejected the ruling as having been made under duress after Islamist militias seized Tripoli. Following the declaration of the GNC and the Supreme Court that the House of Representatives was invalid, Libyan National Army head General Khalifa Haftar launched “Operation Dignity.” He sent militias and army units to attempt to retake the capital Tripoli where the GNC was based. The House of Representatives is based in the east, in Tobruk.

However his forces were unable to achieve decisive victories. Consequently the fighting has continued.

The list contains 75 individuals they accuse of being linked to Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism. All of those on the list are enemies of General Haftar. Abuzaakouk ran an op-ed in Huffington Post in December 2016 comparing Hafter to Egypt’s General Sisi and accusing him of being a war criminal and a CIA plant sent by the American government to take over Libya.

Both Omeish and Abuzaakouk have made statements supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past.

The list has broader repercussions than the inclusion of American political activists.

According to a December 2015 U.N.-backed peace agreement, the House of Representatives and the Islamist dominated General National Congress (GNC) formed the GNA as a national unity government.

The GNA left the HoR as the legislature, but saw the establishment of a state council with members nominated by the GNC.

However, topping this terrorist list is head of the GNA’s High Council of State, Abdul-Rahman Al-Sawihili and the list includes other senior figures in the GNA.

Their inclusion puts the entire peace agreement at risk. The agreement was already in question to a certain extent. In January, former members of the Libyan National Salvation Government seized government buildings with militiamen and declared themselves back in power.

The timing of the publication may be linked to the recent spat surrounding Qatar. Libya’s eastern government is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, both of whom recently cut off relations with Qatar over the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the Maldives and Yemen. Libya’s Eastern government joined them.

Both the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have provided air support to Haftar, bombing targets linked to Muslim Brotherhood militias. Egypt has assisted in training troops, worried about the threat to its own security attendant in having an Islamist-dominated neighbor.

By contrast, Qatar funded Islamist militias to the tune of $750 million from 2011 to June 2017, according to the Libyan News Agency. Western officials tracked Qatari arms shipments being flown directly into Misrata airport. This funding includes money allocated to al-Qaeda-linked militias the Ansar al-Sharia organization, the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council and the Libyan Fighting Group in Derna.

At the beginning of June 2017, forces aligned with the GNA shut down Dar al-Ifta, an extremist organization headed by Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani. Dar al-Ifta had been pumping out fatwas justifying violence against the government.

His constant support for Qatari involvement in the war saw him dubbed the “Mufti of Qatar.”

In March 2016, Omeish co-signed an open letter calling on then president Barack Obama to support the Revolutionary Council of Derna, which was called out by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. The House of Representatives governments seems to see the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar network as an international entity which threatens them and which they are willing to take strong action against.

Hafter recently stated “the terrorist action carried out by Qatar on Libyan territory will not pass without charge.” The publication of this terror list looks to be part of this regional power struggle.

Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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