Moussa Koussa

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Person.png Moussa Koussa  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Portrait of Moussa Koussa, made in September 2010
BornMoussa Muhammad Koussa
23 March 1949
Tajura, [[Libya|“Libya”]]
Alma materMichigan State University
Libya's former intelligence chief who abandoned his country before the Western attack in 2011.

Employment.png Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya

In office
4 March 2009 - 30 March 2011

Moussa Koussa is Libya's former intelligence chief who held a number of high-profile positions in Muammar Gaddafi's government, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs from March 2009. Shortly into the 2011 NATO bombing campaign in support of the rebels, Koussa left the country and resigned on 30 March 2011.[1]

Koussa previously headed the Jamahiriya el-Mukhabarat (Libyan intelligence agency) from 1994 to 2009, and was considered one of the country's most powerful figures and a member of Gaddafi's inner circle.[2] When he arrived to the United Kingdom in March 2011, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released an official statement saying that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government and intended to resign. No charges were pressed against him by the British government, and in the following months financial sanctions on him were lifted by the Obama administration. He now lives in a small house in a suburb of Doha, Qatar, after being asked to leave his suite in the luxurious Four Seasons hotel.[3]

Early life and Education

Moussa Koussa was born on 23 March 1949 in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura into a well respected middle-class family with no significant tribal or other power base. He attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, earning a degree in sociology in 1978 with a 200-plus pages study of Colonel Gaddafi titled "The political leader and his social background: Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader".[4] Koussa was offered the chance to continue to study for a doctorate but instead returned to Tripoli. As a student, Koussa took great care with his work, interviewing Gaddafi twice, his family, childhood teachers, friends, and military colleagues, allowing him to paint a vivid picture of the influences and motivations of Gaddafi's revolutionary visions in his thesis, which may be the most comprehensive, revealing document in English about Libya's enigmatic leader, Muammar Gaddafi. According to his thesis adviser, Christopher K. Vanderpool, Moussa Koussa would have had a promising career in academia had he not abandoned plans to study for a doctorate to become one of Gaddafi’s closest confidants.[5] His passion for academia and teaching was so deep-rooted that he was teaching at the University of Tripoli for decades, even while serving under different roles the Libyan government.

Chief of Intelligence and diplomat

After his return to Libya, Koussa worked as a security analyst for Libyan embassies in Northern Europe before being dispatched as Secretary of the Libyan People's Bureau in London in 1979. He was expelled from the United Kingdom in 1980, after commenting too candidly[6] in an interview with The Times newspaper about his government's intention to eliminate two political opponents who were living in the UK.

From 1984 to 1992, Moussa Koussa was head of Al-Mathaba Aalamiya (meaning "The World Centre"), an ideological anti-imperialist organisation known in the West as Libya’s Centre to Resist Imperialism, Racism, Backwardness and Fascism. The organisation built on Koussa’s diplomatic prestige, political weight and intellectual acumen. Its leading members included Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, Yoweri Museveni, and Robert Mugabe. Under his tenure, Al-Mathaba played a leading role with the African National Congress against apartheid in South Africa, and in the West became widely known as a source of training, funding and support for revolutionary groups.

Moussa Koussa served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1994. In 1994, Gaddafi fired Abdullah al-Senussi as head of Jamahiriya el-Mukhabarat, the Libyan intelligence agency, and reorganised the agency under a newly formed External Security Organization (ESO), headed by Moussa Koussa from 1994 to 2009. During this phase Moussa Koussa was the key figure in the normalisation of relations between Libya and many NATO nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom. He played a crucial role in securing the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was wrongly convicted in January 2001 for the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Koussa is also credited for the expulsion of Abu Nidal from Libya, whom he described as a ruthless murderer and terrorist that Gaddafi allowed to live in Libya in 1986, the year that Ronald Reagan launched Operation El Dorado Canyon against Gaddafi in response to the La Belle discotheque bombing in April 1986.[7] On 23 August 2002, the BBC reported that Abu Bakr, a former spokesman for the Abu Nidal group, had accused Abu Nidal of being 'behind the Lockerbie bombing'.[8] In October 2008, Moussa Koussa met both British and Scottish government officials, listed as an interpreter, while in a second visit in January 2009, he was listed as Minister of Security.[9]

Over the decades, Koussa gained a reputation as an urbane and worldly figure "who would not have looked out of place as a Western ambassador," according to the former Central Intelligence Agency agent Robert Pillar.[10]

Koussa is further credited by the CIA, MI6, as well as DGSE the French intelligence service for unravelling a labyrinth of Islamic radical and fundamentalist cells and movements in neighbouring Sudan, Niger, Mali, and Chad. Such groups would come to be known as Al-Qaeda. On 16 March 1998, five months before the Al-Qaeda 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Libya ordered the first alert to Interpol for the capture of Osama Bin Laden, a fact unbeknownst to the wider public.[11] The warrant was forwarded to the Interpol in France, where it was formalised on 15 April 1998.

In 2004, George Tenet credited Libya for issuing the first international red notice Interpol alert and arrest warrant for Osama Bin Laden.[12] Koussa was also credited for negotiating Libya's decision into giving up its WMD programme thus facilitating Libya's reintegration into the International community. US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal that the US views Moussa Koussa as a character of high interest with a combination of intellectual acumen, operational ability, and political weight[13] Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli, stated Koussa is "straightforward and reliable"."I found him a perfectly reasonable person to deal with."[14][15] Another leaked cable described him as "a useful and powerful interlocutor who has been mostly cooperative in liaison channels and key to our re-engagement."[16]

Moussa Koussa became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2009, replacing Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, who was appointed Libya's UN Ambassador in New York. In the May 2009 cable released by Wikileaks, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa expressed concerns about the Canadian Government led by Stephen Harper over the issue of ransom payments, which would only further strengthen Al-Qaeda’s traction in the Saharan belt and parts of North Africa. There had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including two Canadian officials who had been released in return for money.[17][18]

Koussa accompanied Mutassim Gaddafi on a visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York soon after Libya emerged from international isolation. A US Embassy cable quoted Koussa, in a private conversation, as saying that Mutassim was not a keen student of international relations and had to be prompted to read books on the subject. Before the 2011 Libya crisis, there were indications that Koussa was no longer at the centre of the country's ruling circle. At an international summit in Tripoli in December 2010, Koussa spent much of his time smoking in the public buffet area while the rest of Gaddafi's entourage were cloistered in a private room.[19]

Departure and resignation

After departing Tripoli by car and arriving in Tunis, Tunisia, on 28 March 2011, via the Ras Ajdir border crossing, a Tunisian Government spokesman stated via Tunis Afrique Presse that Koussa had arrived on a "private visit."[20] On 30 March 2011, he departed from Djerba on a Swiss-registered private jet, arriving at Farnborough airfield in England, according to Libyan sources on a diplomatic mission.[21] The Foreign and Commonwealth Office later released an official press statement, stating that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government and intended to resign,[22][23][24][25] unhappy with the alleged Libyan Army attacks on civilians.

Scottish prosecutors interviewed Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing, and found no judicial reason or evidence to hold him in captivity.[26] At the time, Koussa was a leading member of Al-Mathaba.[27]

Koussa left the United Kingdom and moved to Qatar following a European Union decision to lift sanctions against him, meaning he no longer faced travel restrictions or an asset freeze.[28] Moussa Koussa's role in the torture and deaths of Libyan people was alleged by the BBC Television Panorama programme in October 2011 after which Koussa issued a statement to the press through his lawyer, strongly refuting the allegations.[29][30]

Mystery of UTA Flight 772

In April 2011, The Week reported that French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière was keen to question Moussa Koussa:

"The dramatic defection of Libya's former foreign minister Moussa Koussa to Britain has inevitably focused attention on what role he might have played in planning the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. But as Scottish police prepare to grill Colonel Gaddafi's one-time intelligence chief, counter-terrorism experts in France will be pressing for the opportunity to question him about another airborne atrocity laid at the door of the Libyan regime.

A powerful explosion aboard a DC-10 aircraft operated by the French-owned Union des Transport Aeriens (UTA) over the Sahara desert in September 1989 - less than a year after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up - killed all 170 passengers and crew. The downing of UTA Flight 772, bound from Brazzaville via Chad to Paris Charles de Gaulle, never attracted the level of international outrage that greeted the Lockerbie disaster, though the French authorities spent years investigating the explosion. After hundreds of fragments were recovered from the stricken aircraft, and traces of the explosive PETN were found in a baggage area, the senior French judge in charge of the UTA dossier, Jean-Louis Bruguière, indicted six Libyans linked to Gaddafi's security apparatus (one of them, Abdullah al-Senussi, the dictator's brother-in-law).

The working hypothesis of Bruguière's investigation was that Gaddafi had been enraged by French support of the government in neighbouring Chad during a period of high tension between the two nations that eventually erupted into a brief but vicious desert war which ended when Libyan troops were routed in 1987. Bruguière was an eleventh generation judge who was then head of the French anti-terrorism unit and was regarded as one of the world's most knowledgeable and effective investigators. Under intense pressure from France, the Libyans allowed him to visit Tripoli and question a number of intelligence officials. Among them was Moussa Koussa, then Gaddafi's security chief, whom French sources present at the time reported had turned pale and become extremely agitated when Bruguière confronted him with a damning array of evidence of Libyan involvement in the bombing.

Following Gaddafi's refusal to hand over any of Bruguière's suspects, six Libyans were charged, tried and convicted in absentia by a French court in 1999. Although Koussa was not named in the formal indictment, Bruguière has never made any secret of his belief that the UTA attack could not have been authorised without Koussa's knowledge. Bruguière's close relationship with US counter-terrorism specialists working on the Pan Am Flight 103 investigation provided access to much highly sensitive intelligence about the operations of the Libyan security services."[31]


  2. "Inside Gaddafi's inner circle – Africa". Al Jazeera English. (2011-02-27). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  11. "Osama bin Laden arrest warrant"
  13. "Moussa Koussa's defection surprises Libya – and maybe Britain too"
  26. "Lockerbie probe police meet Kusa". (2011-04-08). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  27. {
  28. Moussa Koussa denies Libya torture alleged on BBC Panorama. The Guardian. 26 October 2011
  29. "Musa Kusa full statement on Lockerbie", STV, 26 October 2011.
  30. {
  31. "Moussa Koussa and the mystery of UTA Flight 772"