After receiving his first invite to a Western country in 34 years, Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi was clearly out to make a good first impression.
He arrived with a 400-person entourage for a five-day official visit to Paris last week on no fewer than five planes and a fleet of armor-plated limos. Despite being booked into the luxurious, five-star Hotel de Marigny, he preferred to pitch his own heated Bedouin style tent that he brought with him in the gardens. As a final touch, he also brought a Saharan camel to greet visitors in desert tradition. This week, he was in Madrid as a guest of the Spanish government.
But much like a popular music icon, no entourage is complete without the right women. For Qaddafi, that means a menacing group of 30 female body guards. Easily mistaken as hopefuls for “America’s Next Model,” his unit of gorgeous, gun-toting women are actually trained killers. The bodyguards, who are also reputedly virgins, made their Parisian debut in stylish blue camouflage fatigues.
Qaddafi’s elite female corps mark him as controversial an Islamic figure as he is in the West because these women directly challenge the role of women in Islamic society.
Weapons training, the right to carry weapons, the right to use weapons and entrusting women with the physical protection of the head of state are all pretty revolutionary moves for an Islamic country.
Qaddafi’s female bodyguards provocatively dress in Western fatigues, heavy black boots and shades instead of the veil and head-to-toe black chador that is traditional dress for Muslim women.
The lipstick, nail polish, Western hairstyles, bright colors and even high heels enjoyed by Qaddafi’s ladies are radical freedoms forbidden to many Islamic women under the restrictive regime prescribed by law.
Sharia law discourages women from attracting the attention of the opposite sex. Besides covering their hair and bodies with the Muslim headscarf and loose clothing, women who use heavy make-up are frowned upon and those who transgress modesty rules can be fined, lashed or jailed.
In the man whom President Ronald Reagan referred to as the ‘Mad Dog’ who has been linked to terrorism for decades, we now find an unlikely, perhaps unintentional, champion of women’s rights in Islam.
Qaddafi, cruising around Paris in a white limo with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was not long ago considered an international pariah due to a range of offenses. He has backed terrorist groups from the IRA and radical Palestinian groups as well as Philippine Muslim separatists. Libyan “diplomats” were involved in the London murder of a police officer in 1984. In 1988, the U.S. was also a victim of his policies when Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down over Lockerbie, Scotland.
But this journey from outcast in the African desert to president’s guest on the Champs Elysee has not come without a serious price in Libyan security — making friends with his former enemies has made Qaddafi very unpopular with Al Qaeda.
While Qaddafi was basking in his Parisian guest appearance, Ayman al-Zawahri announced that the Fighting Islamic Group back at the ranch was joining Al Qaeda and urged Libyan Islamists to join the Al Qaeda cause. Surrendering his nukes and renouncing terrorism cozied Qaddafi up to our allies, but it also led to Zawahri declaring Qaddafi an enemy of Islam and criticized him for abandoning his “weapons and equipment to…crusader masters.”
We don’t need another Al Qaeda haven serving as a launch pad for attacks on the U.S., so let’s hope that Qaddafi is as successful at dismantling the terrorist network at home as he has been in breaking down the restrictions imposed on women.
The ‘But I’m Just A Poet’ Get-Out-of-Jail Free Card
Millions will endure the horrors of airport security lines to ensure safe flights home this Christmas and New Year’s. But how safe are we after clearing the security corral?
Not very, especially when terrorists are still able to infiltrate airports and plant terrorist insiders.
Samima Malik, 23, worked at the WH Smith bookshop where I regularly pick up my gossip mags and candy bars before a flight from Heathrow Airport. She probably rang up my stuff time and again, but nothing warned me that there was a terrorist lurking on the other side of the till. Malik proves there isn’t a convenient profile that would help us recognize a terrorist. In fact, terrorists are very good at blending in and getting on the inside.
Like many others in her local community, she found work at Heathrow. But beneath her seemingly ordinary existence as a shop assistant, she hid a radicalized life driven by violent Islamic extremist views.
Concealed in the airport as an employee, the self-dubbed “Lyrical Terrorist” was the perfectly placed terrorist insider. She had direct access to the 200,000 passengers who passed through daily. She wrote: "The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom" on the back of her store’s receipt roll. Also calling herself the “Stranger Awaiting Martyrdom,” she was arrested before she had the chance to “martyr” herself as a human Hiroshima in the airport.
But the U.K. failed to jail the “Lyrical Terrorist” and instead gave her a slap on the wrist. Her nine-month suspended sentence will be spent in community service. No doubt her local community will be grateful for assistance from a terrorist who fantasized about murdering the inhabitants of an entire street with “poisoned bullets.”
Malik has become a cause celebre for the liberals who claim that she was just exercising her right to free speech as a poet.
Malik was not prosecuted for writing poetry. She was a dangerous extremist. She was a regular contributor to terror Web Sites and called herself the “Lyrical Terrorist,” not the “Lyrical Poet.”
In 2004, her interest in Islam began to grow. She started wearing a hijab and when she became involved with extremist Islamist organizations, she changed her web persona from “Lyrical Babe” to the “Lyrical Terrorist.”
She wrote and posted poems praising Usama bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and describing beheadings. She spent her spare time visiting various extremist Web sites including that of the notorious hate preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri. She took her violent views to the airport, secretly scrawling messages about terrorism, poisoned bullets and Soviet spy weapons on the back of shop receipts.
As for her “poetry,” she claimed she wrote poems about beheadings in the hopes of landing a man. Malik posted her poems on a number of known extremist Web Sites, not your average eHarmony or Match.com, so what sort of man was she hoping to attract?
In her bedroom, police found a library of extremist material including the Al Qaeda Manual, the Terrorist's Handbook and the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook. Police also found instructions for using a Dragunov sniper rifle and other firearms, a Rocket Propelled Grenade handbook, and a guide entitled “How to Win Hand-to-Hand Fighting.”
These were not the sort of publications that she could pick up with her employee discount at the bookstore where she worked.
Malik holds the dubious distinction of being the first woman ever convicted for offenses related to Islamic terrorism in the U.K. She testified that calling herself a terrorist sounded “cool” and she skillfully hid her violent extremist views to infiltrate an airport. The “Lyrical Terrorist” deserved jail time, not the right to move freely in a community that she fantasized about beheading and poisoning.
Embedded in an international airport and deeply involved in terrorist organizations, the “Lyrical Terrorist” serves as a warning to us all.
Russian spies are still so active in Britain that valuable resources are being diverted from combating terrorists, according to MI5’s chief Jonathan Evans.
Speaking at a high-level briefing in London, Evans said security services are already stretched dealing with the Jihadi threat. And Moscow’s aggressive operations just add further strain.
About $24 million of MI5’s budget has been re-directed to defend the U.K. against espionage attempts by Russia, China and others, meaning our British allies can’t contribute as much to the fight against international terrorism.
MI5 estimates at least 30 Russian intelligence officers — let’s just go ahead and call them spies — are working in London out of the Russian embassy in Kensington. Since the Cold War, Moscow has failed to reduce the number of spies operating in the U.K.
Both the SVR, (the new name for the overseas operations of the old KGB), and the GRU, military intelligence contributes to the spy contingent based in the U.K. Controlled by a spymaster known as “the resident,” they spy on the government and monitor the Russian dissident population. One unit, called Line X, specializes in technological espionage and focuses on stealing scientific secrets.
Russia isn’t the only country running spy operations in the U.K. At least 20 other foreign intelligence services are also operating against U.K. interests. These countries devote considerable time and energy trying to steal sensitive technology on civilian and military projects.
Allison Barrie, a security and terrorism consultant with the Commission for National Security in the 21st Century, has an MA from the King’s College War Studies department and has just completed her Ph. D thesis with King’s. She attended law school in England and practiced law for four years at two leading global law firms. Allison has contributed to various projects with Britain’s Ministry of Defense, including Iraq Operation Telic 5 and other operations dealing with imprisoned soldiers, combat experience and management of combat. She has traveled to over 45 countries and performed as a ballet dancer in productions of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera.