[Marxism] The Libyan rebels' double agent
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 26 15:21:24 MDT 2011
A double agent in Gadhafi camp
The Wall Street Journal
By CHARLES LEVINSON And MARGARET COKER/WSJ.com – 3 hrs ago
TRIPOLI, Libya—For more than five months in a city locked down by forces
loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, regime opponents in Tripoli's Fashloom
neighborhood relied on a fellow resistance leader who told them with
uncanny accuracy how to evade security sweeps and tipped them off to
impending raids against them.
On Thursday, as a rebel advance broke Col. Gadhafi's grip over his
capital, the man identified himself to those beyond his underground
cell: He is Mahmoud Ben Jumaa, a senior officer in Col. Gadhafi's
personal security force.
In his double-agent role in the uprising, Mr. Ben Jumaa by day issued
orders to arrest or tail suspected rebels. By night, the 54-year-old met
secretly with those trying to overthrow his boss, who in turn were part
of a city-wide opposition to the strongman.
Even as battles continued for pockets of Tripoli on Thursday, a clearer
picture is emerging to explain how Libya's uprising succeeded with
little widespread bloodshed in the capital. In part, it is because
onetime regime stalwarts—including internal security commanders as
senior as Mr. Ben Jumaa—were secretly part of the rebel leadership.
"I directed one of the great oppressive organs of Gadhafi's government,"
Mr. Ben Jumaa said Thursday. "And all the while I was doing everything I
could to make sure this revolution succeeded."
Mr. Ben Jumaa's account of his role, which began in February and
eventually led him to evacuate his family from Tripoli, is corroborated
by accounts of neighbors and two senior police officers in Fashloom.
In contrast with the revolution in neighboring Egypt, which was led by
youthful revolutionaries, government and business leaders like Mr. Ben
Jumaa played an apparently pivotal role in the Libyan uprising. Their
apparent buy-in and leadership suggests that Libya's transition to a
post-Gadhafi democracy may prove smoother than Iraq's efforts to
reestablish order in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that was
broadly opposed by the country's ruling Baathists.
Of course, fighting remains fierce in Libya and the involvement of these
people hardly guarantees a smooth transition. The collapse of Col.
Gadhafi's rule has left a substantial leadership vacuum in the capital.
The leaders who will now begin to fill the gaps will have to overcome
the regional, tribal and ideological differences that have long divided
A Tripoli citizen mans a local security checkpoint as part of an
initiative overseen by rebel-led neighborhood councils.
Mr. Ben Jumaa's local council forms the base level of the rebel
governing structure that has sprung up in most of the country during the
past six months. It is among some 20 neighborhood councils in Tripoli
that answer to the Tripoli Council, which has steered the city's
uprising and that answers, in turn, to the rebels' national governing
body, the National Transitional Council.
Some 30 members of the Tripoli-wide council met Thursday and for the
first time agreed to break their operational security, meeting as a
group in a downtown hotel. The cadre of mostly middle-age professionals,
including engineers, hotel managers and accountants, had been meeting in
secret locations for months, using aliases to protect themselves from
arrest or infiltration. Few knew each other by name or occupation.
On Thursday, they hugged and wept as they saw each other in the open,
and introduced themselves by their real names.
The tight cell structure that Mr. Ben Jumaa helped organize in Fashloom,
these people say, was replicated in other Tripoli neighborhoods. In the
industrial suburb of Tajoura, local commanders organized patrols to
alert residents to nightly raids by irregular militias loyal to Col.
Patrol volunteers would communicate down alleyways and narrow lanes via
coded signals that they would flash from the lights of their
In Fashloom, police commanders' role in the rebel leadership is expected
to expedite local police forces' return to the streets. Local leaders
here say they have also handpicked many of the men who are now providing
security in neighborhoods. That could help ease the challenge of
disarming those groups and collecting the vast stockpiles of weapons
that have circulated among Libyans in recent months.
When demonstrations broke out in February, Tripoli residents were quick
to march. Col. Gadhafi's crackdown was harsh. Security forces opened
fire on street demonstrators. Tripoli's huge size kept rallies localized
and prevented organizers from achieving a critical mass of demonstrators.
By early March, Col. Gadhafi had switched off the Internet. Activists
knew his intelligence forces monitored phones. Organizers began meeting
around kitchen tables and in family rooms.
"The ground rule is that everyone came with an alias," said Jamal
Derwish Boulsayn, a middle-age businessman who regularly hosted meetings
of about 30 people at his home in Souq al-Jouma'a, a neighborhood near
Fashloom. "That way if someone was a spy, or someone was grabbed, they
couldn't tell security who the rest of us were."
Mr. Ben Jumaa—a 20-year veteran of Libya's Internal Security who rose to
become the head of the office dedicated to Col. Gadhafi's personal
security—linked up with Fashloom's rebel leaders from the start of
demonstrations there. He and 12 others on the shadow neighborhood
council oversaw antiregime activities.
Mr. Ben Jumaa's neighbors say they long suspected his loyalty wasn't
absolute. They said he would tell neighbors how to deal with security
services should they fall under suspicion, or how to keep clear of the
web of spy networks that bolstered Col. Gadhafi over four decades of power.
"We all knew he was always unenthusiastic about what was happening in
this country," said Abdel Basat al-Tubal, a member of the neighborhood
committee who is also a brigadier general in the local police force.
Local rebel leaders calculated that Mr. Ben Jumaa's intimate knowledge
of the security services' methods would help them dodge the regime's
security forces, Mr. Basat al-Tubal said.
Mr. Ben Jumaa says he was in daily contact with security commanders
closest to Col. Gadhafi. He said he would sort daily through
intelligence from phone taps, rebel surveillance and interrogations, and
pass on arrest orders for suspected rebels.
Mr. Ben Jumaa tipped off rebel leaders before several raids in Fashloom,
giving dissidents a narrow window to hide their rebel contraband or seek
out havens before the house raids began, several neighborhood activists
In nearby Souq al-Jouma'a, resistance-cell leader Hakim Boulsayn said he
evaded arrest more than one time while he was visiting the district's
clandestine armory, due to an informer high up in the internal security
service. "Men like [Mr. Ben Jumaa] were working with many
neighborhoods," he said.
At the beginning of August, Mr. Ben Jumaa received a call. A friend
working in another branch of the security forces, he said, had spotted
Mr. Ben Jumaa's name on an arrest list.
That night, Mr. Ben Jumaa and his family fled their apartment at 11 p.m.
for a safe house. At 4 a.m., a force of eight Gadhafi security force
vehicles surrounded his apartment building and busted through his door,
said Abdel Hamid Sherif, a neighbor who said he watched the raid through
Mr. Ben Jumaa says he ferried his family to Tunisia but stayed in hiding
in Libya until Aug. 20, when the new wave of revolt erupted in Tripoli.
He emerged from his safe house as crowds of men from the Souq al-Jouma'a
neighborhood stormed the streets. Feeling momentum turning against the
regime, he went back to Fashloom the next day and spent the weekend
organizing his neighborhood as Tripoli fell into rebel hands.
More information about the Marxism