Colonel Muammar Gaddafi issued a prophetic warning to Tony Blair that Islamist militants would attack Europe if his regime imploded, newly released transcripts disclose.
Gaddafi made the prediction in two phone calls to Mr Blair in February 2011 – just weeks before a coalition carried out air strikes against government forces in Libya and eight months before he was beaten to death by a mob.
Mr Blair contacted the Libyan dictator “in a personal capacity” to make a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to stand aside. Gaddafi insisted that he was justified in defending the north African nation from sleeper al-Qa’ida terrorist cells that were terrorising Libyans.
In the first of two calls on February 25, Gaddafi urged Mr Blair to warn world leaders about jihadist militants in the country who, he said, could not be reasoned with and wanted to control the Mediterranean. They would then attack Europe, he warned.
Gaddafi said: “We are not fighting them, they are attacking us. I want to tell you the truth. It is not a difficult situation at all. The story is simply this: an organisation has laid down sleeping cells in North Africa. Called the al-Qaeda Organisation in North Africa. They have managed to get arms and terrify people. People can’t leave their homes . . . it’s a jihad situation.”
In a second conversation that day, the Libyan leader repeated his warning that militants had their sights set beyond his own country.
He said: “Damage will be on the Med, Europe and the whole world. These armed groups are using the [Libyan] situation as a justification. We shall fight them.”
Transcripts of the calls were published yesterday (Thursday) by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, which is investigating the UK government’s foreign policy surrounding the collapse of the Libyan regime.
Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the committee, suggested that Gaddafi’s warnings might have been “wrongly ignored” because he was usually “delusional” about foreign affairs.
“The failure to follow Mr Blair’s calls to ‘keep the lines open’ and for these early conversations to initiate any peaceful compromise continue to reverberate,” Mr Blunt said. “The committee will want to consider whether Gaddafi’s prophetic warning of the rise of extremist militant groups following the collapse of the regime was wrongly ignored because of Gaddafi’s otherwise delusional take on international affairs.
“The evidence that the committee has taken so far in this inquiry suggests that Western policy-makers were rather less perceptive than Gaddafi about the risks of intervention for both the Libyan people and the western interests.”
Since Gaddafi’s overthrow, much of the country has fallen into the control of jihadists linked to the Islamic State. Isis terrorists were responsible for killing 130 people in the Paris attacks in November as well as a spate of other incidents.
Mr Blair visited the Libyan leader at least six times after leaving Downing Street in 2007. He received approval to make the two phone calls from both David Cameron and Hillary Clinton, who was then America’s secretary of state. In the phone calls, he urged Gaddafi to find a bolt-hole while constitutional reforms were put in place.
“If you have a safe place to go, you should go there because this will not end peacefully and there has to be a process of change,” the former prime minister said.
An often belligerent Gaddafi asked Mr Blair whether he supported the al-Qaeda terrorists. At one point, he held the telephone near a television to prove that children were shouting: “Long live Gaddafi.”
At the end, the Libyan leader urged Mr Blair to come and see the reality of Libya himself. Mr Blair said he would inquire about that and asked him to keep the lines of communication open.