In 2009, CAGE published a report on the arrest and detention in 2006 of Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a Libyan who had successfully sought asylum in the UK and settled in Manchester in the 1990s. It makes allegations of police brutality that do not appear to have been substantiated by any other source. Further similar allegations are made in an interview with Abd al-Baset Azzouz by Asim Qureshi, conducted in 2008 [archived here].
The report and the interview are designed to create the impression that the authorities mistreated a family man living a “regular life” on security grounds, but without evidence against him. In the interview, Asim Qureshi asks if Abd al-Baset Azzouz has “any messages for our readers”. Abd al-Baset Azzouz responds that he “would urge Muslims and non-Muslims to see us as humans who have done nothing wrong”.
At the time of that interview, Abd al-Baset Azzouz appears to have been an Al Qaeda operative with links to the very top echelons of the terrorist group. According to a US Library of Congress report, [archived here] he apparently joined the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and had been “close to [al-Qaeda leader] al-Zawahiri since the 1980s”. After he moved to the UK, the report says, Abd al-Baset Azzouz “began spreading Al Qaeda’s ideology to younger Muslims”.
It has been reported that Abd al-Baset Azzouz was associated with Ramadan Abedi when Abd al-Baset Azzouz was in Manchester. Ramadan is the father of Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber.
Manchester has long been a haven for Libyan Islamist exiles, including members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Abd al-Baset Azzouz was reportedly an LIFG member. This geographic concentration is common knowledge in Islamist circles and among counter-extremism practitioners.
In the end, Abd al-Baset Azzouz was bailed and not charged. In 2009, he left the UK for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
He did so to return to the fray, as can be seen in a US State Department report naming him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in 2014. It said Abd al-Baset Azzouz:
“has had a presence in Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, and Libya. He was sent to Libya in 2011 by al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to build a fighting force there, and mobilized approximately 200 fighters. He is considered a key operative capable of training al-Qa’ida recruits in a variety of skills, such as IED construction.”
In 2016, Abd al-Baset Azzouz was added to a UN sanctions list for “being associated with Al-Qaida for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of” Al-Qaida”. He was also added to the EU sanctions list in 2016.
Abd al-Baset Azzouz’s current whereabouts are apparently unknown.