Noman Benotman is president and former senior analyst (strategic communications) at the Quilliam Foundation. He was a founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and was later involved in disbanding the organisation.
Benotman joined the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in 1989, fighting under the command of Jalalludin Haqqani. He was trained by fighters who had themselves been trained by Pakistani special forces, the CIA and the SAS.
Libyan de-radicalisation programe
Benotman worked closely with Saif Gadaffi on a programme for de-radicalising jihadis. Time magazine reported:
- Benotman is a lot less famous than al-Megrahi, but his collaboration with Saif may actually be the clearest sign that Gaddafi Junior is serious about reform. Saif brought Benotman to Libya in 2007 and then helped him negotiate a truce with hundreds of jailed LIFG militants, effectively severing their links with al-Qaeda. On March 23, Saif secured the release of 214 LIFG members from jail, including its three top leaders.
A leaked US diplomatic cable from December 2009 stated:
- The revised LIFG ideology is the result of a two-year initiative, led by Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi in his capacity as QDF chairman and brokered on behalf of the Libyan government. According to press reports and Libyan officials, Saif worked closely with the UK-based former LIFG leader, Noman Benotman, on the effort to work on a revised ideology with the LIFG in exchange for amnesty.
Journalist Martin Bright strongly criticised Benotman over his links with the Gadaffi regime, following the outbreak of the Libyan uprising in 2011:
- I believe Noman Benotman made a terrible error of judgement by believing that it was possible to work with Saif al-Islam to deradicalise jihadis, just as the Labour government was wrong to believe it could work with Gaddafi to further its interests in the war on terror. The price of such compromise is always too high. Your enemy’s enemy is not always your friend. Why should Libya’s deradicalisation programme have been any more credible than Saudi Arabia’s or Egypt’s or that proposed by dangerous opponents of Quilliam in Whitehall who believe this work must be left to radical “street” Islamists?
Moussa Koussa defection
In late March 2011, the Quilliam Foundation would claim that Benotman had been instrumental in the defection of Libyan Foreign Minister:
- Quilliam’s senior analyst, Noman Benotman, has been heavily involved in encouraging and coordinating this brave move by Moussa Koussa. We at Quilliam have always been advocates of track two diplomacy and this incident illustrates the importance of maintaining diplomatic pressure on key figures within the Ghaddafi regime. We hope such pressure will lead to an internal implosion of the regime which will save countless lives and bring about a new future for the Libyan people.
- Frank Gardner, Al-Qaeda's Internal Debate, 27 August 2008.
- Noman Benotman, Quilliam, accessed 23 February 2011.
- Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam, Serpent's Tail, 2010, pp.225-226.
- Vivienne Walt, Can Gaddafi's Son Reform Libya?, Time, 5 April 2010.
- Wikileaks - 09TRIPOLI955, archived at Politiken.dk, document date 9 December 2009, releas date, 31 January 2011.
- Martin Bright, Quilliam's Libyan Connection, theJC.com, 12 March 2011.
- The Defection of Moussa Koussa, Quilliam Foundation, 31 March 2011.