National Front for the Salvation of Libya

The National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) was a political opposition group active during the rule of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. It was formed in 1981 and called for major liberalising reforms such as democratic elections, a free press, and the separation of powers.[1] During the 1980s, it pursued a campaign of armed opposition to the Gaddafi regime and made several coup attempts, the most notable being its 1984 armed assault on Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli.[3] After the failure of this and several other coup attempts the group largely abandoned militancy, and instead used peaceful tactics to promote reform in Libya; in 2005, the NFSL joined with six other groups to form the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition.[3]

National Front for the Salvation of Libya
Dates of operation7 October 1981 (1981-10-07)[1] – 9 May 2012 (2012-05-09)[2]
MotivesThe end of Muammar Gaddafi's regime and the establishment of a democratic state in Libya
Active regions Libya
StatusDefunct; reorganized into the National Front Party

With the fall of the Gaddafi regime in the 2011 Libyan Civil War, the NFSL's main long-term goal was fulfilled. Consequently, after the war's end, the NFSL dissolved itself and was replaced by the National Front Party, which won 3 seats in the 2012 General National Congress election.[4][5] The NFSL's founder and former leader, Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf was appointed Chairman of the General National Congress, effectively making him interim head of state.[6]


Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, a former Libyan ambassador to India, founded the NFSL on 7 October 1981, at a press conference held in Khartoum, Sudan.[1] The group was allowed to operate out of Sudan until 1985, when the country's leader, Gaafar Nimeiry was ousted in a coup d'état. The NFSL launched a wide campaign to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, establishing a short-wave radio station, a commando military training camp and also published a bi-monthly newsletter, Al Inqadh (Salvation). According to various sources, the group was supported by the government of Saudi Arabia, and the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.[7][8][9]

On 17 April 1984, the NFSL organised a demonstration of Libyan dissidents outside the Libyan embassy in London. During the demonstration, shots were fired from the embassy into the group of protestors, striking eleven people, including one of the police officers controlling the demonstration, Yvonne Fletcher, who died shortly afterward. Fletcher's murder quickly led to the severing of diplomatic relations between Britain and Libya.

Military actionEdit

Flag of the NFSL.

Three weeks after the embassy protest, on 8 May 1984, NFSL commandos took part in an attack on Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli, in an attempt to assassinate the Libyan leader. The attack was thwarted when the group's leader, Ahmed Ibrahim Ihwas, was captured when trying to enter Libya at the Tunisian border. Although the coup attempt failed and Gaddafi escaped unscathed, dissident groups claimed that some eighty Libyans, Cubans, and East Germans had been killed in the operation. Some 2,000 people were arrested in Libya following the attack, and eight were hanged publicly.

NFSL continued its efforts to topple Gaddafi and formed the Libyan National Army (LNA), after a group of soldiers, taken prisoner by Chad during the Chadian–Libyan conflict, defected from the Libyan Army and joined the NFSL in 1987. The LNA was later evacuated from Chad after the President Hissène Habré was overthrown by one of his former officers, Idriss Déby, who was backed by Gaddafi.

Political oppositionEdit

Having apparently given up the idea of a military takeover, the NFSL continued its opposition to Gaddafi by media campaigns and forming political alliances with other opposition groups. The NFSL was one of seven other Libyan opposition groups that formed the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) which was founded in June 2005 at the first NCLO conference in London. The NFSL and three other organizations withdrew from this alliance in February 2008 citing differences of opinion. In a statement issued by the NFSL on 28 February 2008,[10] the NFSL announced its withdrawal from the NCLO due to what it called "straying away from the 'National Accord of 2005'". The NFSL continued its media campaigns, primarily utilizing online mediums. Though relatively weaker than before,[11] and without a clear method of carrying out its objective of toppling the Gaddafi regime, the NFSL continued to be recognized as the leading opposition movement to Col. Gaddafi's rule of Libya.

After the 2011 Libyan Civil War, the group's leaders were allowed to return to Libya. However, with the fall of the Gaddafi regime the NFSL lost its raison d'être, and thus it dissolved itself on 9 May 2012[2] and was replaced by the National Front Party, which won 3 seats in the General National Congress election, Libya's first free election in more than 40 years.[12]


The NFSL organizational structure was based on two primary bodies, the National Congress (المجلس الوطني) and the Permanent Bureau (المكتب الدائم).[citation needed] The National Congress was the highest authority in the NFSL. The Permanent Bureau was elected during National Congress sessions and represented the legislative authority when it was not in session. The Permanent Bureau was also responsible for overseeing the executive body of the NFSL. The Executive Committee (اللجنة التنفذية) was led by the Secretary-General, who was also elected during National Congress sessions. The Executive Committee was made up of several Commissioners who each oversaw different programs of the opposition organization, as well as the Deputy Secretary-General.

At the time of the group's dissolution in 2012, the NFSL Executive Committee was led by Secretary-General Ibrahim Abdulaziz Sahad, who was re-elected for his second term during the 5th National Congress held in July 2007 in the United States.[13] Sahad appointed Mohammed Ali Abdallah as his Deputy. The Permanent Bureau was led by Fawzi al-Tarabulsi, who had previously been elected Vice President of the National Congress and became President upon Dr. Suleiman Abdalla's resignation as President in 2008. The Bureau's leadership also included Vice-President Mohamed Saad and Rapporteur of the Bureau Mohamed Ali Binwasil.

Notable former membersEdit

  • Mohammed Magariaf, former leader of the NFSL, since August 2012 President of the General National Congress and interim head of state
  • Mustafa A.G. Abushagur, from November 2011 to November 2012 deputy prime minister in the interim cabinet, in November 2012 briefly Prime Minister-designate, but lost vote of confidence
  • Ali Zeidan, since November 2012 Prime Minister

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Metz, Helen Chapin (1987). "LIBYA: a country study, Chapter 4. Government and Politics: Opposition to Qadhafi: Exiled Opposition". Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b Grant, George (12 August 2012). "Analysis: Magarief victory paves way for emergence of Abushagur as PM". Libya Herald. Retrieved 24 August 2012. [...] the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the forerunner of the National Front up to 9 May 2012, [...]
  3. ^ a b "Who are the real Libyan opposition?". International Business Times. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  4. ^ Khan, Umar (30 June 2012). "Party Profile: The National Front". Libya Herald.
  5. ^ "National Congress party results". Libya Herald. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  6. ^ "Gaddafi opponent elected Libya assembly chief". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  7. ^ Vandewalle, Dirk (2006). Α History of Modern Libya. Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ Woodward, Bob (2005). Veil: The secret wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. Simon and Schuster.
  9. ^ Nutter, John Jacob (1999). The CIA's black opts. Prometheus Books.
  10. ^ بيان صحفي (in Arabic). National Front for the Salvation of Libya. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  11. ^ Joffe, George (1 March 2011). "Libya's hunt for a Gaddafi alternative". BBC News. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  12. ^ National Front for Salvation of Libya forms political party, outlines plans.
  13. ^ المجلس الوطني - دورة الإنعقاد الخامسة 2007 (in Arabic). National Front for the Salvation of Libya. Archived from the original on 22 March 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2011.