Senior Commander in Libyan Opposition Fighting Islamic Group Killed in Ambush GMP20110417001009 London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic 17 Apr 11 [Unattributed report from London: The Libyan Revolutionaries Resume Their Advance Westward. Al-Qadhafi Has Been Accused of Using Cluster Bombs ] The Libyan revolutionaries made an effort yesterday to retake the oil City of Al-Burayqah in the east of the country, days after NATO planes' continuous bombardment of positions held by the forces of Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. The revolutionaries, six of whom were killed and 20 wounded in the new assault yesterday, showed confidence that the city will fall to them "within hours." This will be their first advance westward since they retook the City of Ajdabiyah one week ago. Al-Hayah has learned in London that the Libyan revolutionaries lost two days ago a prominent leader of the "jihadists" who fell in an ambush laid by Al-Qadhafi's forces on the road between Ajdabiyah and Al-Burayqah. A source knowledgeable of developments in the field said that Urwah -- a senior commander in the Libyan Fighting Islamic Group that was implicated in more than one attempt to assassinate Col AlQadhafi in the 90s -- was killed when a group of revolutionaries fell in an ambush to the west of Ajdabiyah. Urwah returned to Libya when the revolution against the Al-Qadhafi regime began in February. He had been held in Iran for seven years. The Iranians released him, together with a large number of prisoners belonging to Al-Qa'ida and other jihadic organizations. They were allowed to travel to any country they wished. Meanwhile, there is a large-scale controversy after Al-Qadhafi's forces were accused of using internationally banned cluster bombs in shelling the City of Misratah to the east of the capital Tripoli. Misratah has been under siege for weeks now. Revolutionaries and human rights organizations affirmed that Al-Qadhafi's forces are using Spanish-made cluster bombs in shelling Misratah. The Libyan Government was quick to deny this charge, and it challenged anyone to come forward with a proof of such an allegation. Al-Qadhafi's forces fired approximately 100 Grad missiles at the city yesterday morning, killing at least three people. Some sources spoke of a slow progress on the ground made by Al-Qadhafi's forces, specifically in the main Tarablus Street. [Passage omitted on a Reuters report in which the Chadian foreign minister denies that Chadian officers are fighting alongside the Libyan leader's soldiers]
Libyan oppositionists say that Al-Qadhafi brought in African mercenaries from States, such as Chad and Zimbabwe, to help his forces put down the uprising against his rule. [Description of Source: London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic -- Website of influential Saudi-owned London pan-Arab daily. URL: http://www.daralhayat.com]
Bin Ladin Driver, Afghan Veterans Fighting with Libyan Rebels: Algerian Paper GMP20110418280002 Algiers Le Jour d'Algerie Online in French 18 Apr 11 [Report by Sofiane Abi: "Veterans of the Afghanistan War Settling In Among the Rebels: Kamel Sofiane, Bin Ladin's Personal Chauffeur, Is In Libya" -- first paragraph is Le Jour d'Algerie introduction] Bloodthirsty terrorists from the nebulous Al-Qa'ida terrorist organization are already in Libya, by the side of the Libyan rebels, according to several sources close to the fighting. Involved are names of the most bloodthirsty terrorists from the AlQa'ida mother organization, with some belonging to Al-Qa'ida in the [Lands of the] Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) [the group formerly known as the Salafi Group for Call and Combat, GSPC], among whom some Algerian terrorists are already in situ for the new jihad in Libya. Involved here are names that are not well known to public opinion but ones that are very famous to the intelligence agencies of several western countries, even experts on the security issue know very well what names are involved. Here we are talking about Kamel Sofiane, the former personal chauffeur of the spiritual chief of the Al-Qa'ida mother organization, in this case Usama Bin Laden; the latter [i.e. Sofiane] is in the city of Derna by the side of a certain Abou Obeidi, an Al-Qa'ida ideologue who today is the "amir" of the new Derna amirate. By their sides are other sadly famous names, such as Mefta Ali or Kamel Khadraoui, the "amir" of Zenatane; and Abdel Hakim Lahsari, veterans of the war in Afghanistan, sent by Usama Bin Ladin to lend a helping hand to the terrorists from AQIM who have already been on site since the start of the civil war in Libya. They are everywhere, these "madmen of God," in Benghazi (the headquarters of that terrorist organization), Derna, Beida, and Zenatane, and somewhat in Ras Lanouf. This revelation was made the day before yesterday, following a new communique by AQIM disseminated on sites peculiar to the jihadist Salafists. It was from this new communique from AQIM, whose spokesman, a certain Salah Abou Mohamed, who has just confirmed this presence of Al-Qa'ida in Libya, while at the same time revealing
several names of notorious terrorists from that nebulous terrorist organization [as published]. Indeed, according to this communique, these terrorists who are veterans of the war in Afghanistan were sent to Libya following directives from their supreme chief, in this instance the Saudi Usama Bin Ladin. With that having been said, AlQa'ida has just manifested a portion of its presence, indeed, of its playing card, in Libya. Henceforth the jihadist Salafists belonging to AQIM are a full-fledged part of the military conflict that is ongoing in the cities of the Djamahirya. According to several sources close to the fighting, close to two elements from AQIM are already on Libyan soil. They are fighting with the rebels although the latter have denied this presence from Al-Qa'ida within their ranks. In the space of just several weeks, these dangerous terrorists have been able to seize several dozen four-wheel Toyota Station-brand vehicles, equipped with heavy weapons, in particular anti-aircraft weapons, that were installed in the backs of the pick-up trucks. This is not all: the armed Salafists have also seized very sophisticated war weapons. Involved, first, are FN-FAL, Belgian-made automatic weapons; but also RPG7's and MPEADs [expansion not given], anti-tank weapons that can destroy tanks. Further yet, these terrorists who have been dispatched by Droukdel, AQIM's national "amir," have created "amirates" in several Libyan cities, especially Derna, Beida, and Zenatane. Furthermore an audiovisual recording was displayed several days on sites peculiar to its jihadist Salafists that really and truly reveals the existence of elements from AQIM in certain Libyan cities, such as those that were reminiscent of the presence of elements from Al-Qa'ida in Faludja, in Iraq. There were terrorists appearing in Libyan streets, weapons in their hands, and on board vehicles of all kinds. These are images that send a chill down the spine. With that said, today Libya has become another "Iraq," indeed another "Somalia." [Description of Source: Le Jour d'Algerie Online in French -- Website of privately owned daily launched in 2003; has claimed circulation of 35,000; URL: http://www.lejourdalgerie.com] Al-Qa ida in Islamic Maghreb Spokesman Says There Are Islamic Amirates in Libya GMP20110416825001 London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic 16 Apr 11 [E-mail interview with Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb Salah Abu-Muhammad, by Kamil al-Tawil, from London: "Al-Qa'ida: We Have Amirates in Libya, and the Mujahidin Have No Links to the Transitional Council"] Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] has claimed that it is present in Libya, and that there are "Islamic Amirates" being established in the areas in East Libya, which are under the control of the revolutionaries. AQIM launches a fierce attack on the Transitional
National Council, describes it as "transitional infidel council, and criticizes the council's seeking the help of forces of what AQIM describes as "crusaders." AQIM's stance has come in a reply sent to Al-Hayah by AQIM's media official, who is known as Salah Abu-Muhammad, in reply to questions Al-Hayah addressed to him via the E-mail. The following is the text of the interview: [Al-Tawil] What is AQIM's stance toward NATO's intervention on the side of the revolutionaries in Libya? [Abu-Muhammad] Our stance is what has been expressed by the honorable Shaykh Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, may God preserve him, look after him, guide his steps, make him victorious in life and in the afterlife, and make Paradise his final rest. [Al-Tawil] In the light of the repeated claims about your obtaining weapons and surface-to-air missiles from the Libyan weapons depots, as reported recently by Algerian security officials and Chadian President Idris Debi, does Al-Qa'ida have actual presence within Libya? [Abu-Muhammad] Yes, and we also have Islamic Amirates. We are not afraid to announce this, because we are not criminals, and we only fear God Almighty. The weapons are to defend our honor and the honor of the Muslim nation, and to raise the banner of Islam. We are very proud to have Darna City Amirate, Benghazi City Amirate, Al-Bayda City Amirate, Al-Marj City Amirate, and Islamic Shahhat City Amirate. We take pride in particular in the Darna Amirate and its honorable Amir Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim, who together with his brethren have formed the Islamic Council of the city to rule according to God's Shari'ah. [Al-Tawil] Your stance toward foreign intervention in Libya comes at a critical moment when Al-Qadhafi's regime nearly destroyed the revolutionaries after his forces reached the gates of Benghazi. Had it not been for the western intervention there would have been a massacre, and the revolutionaries would have perished. Do you not think that this foreign intervention is good? [Abu-Muhammad] Dying honorably is the least of the faith, which is much better than seeking the help of the forces of the crusaders. Had the revolutionaries been a little more patient, the forces of the tyrant would have suffered their greatest calamity. We do not at all find the intervention to be good; it is the beginning of the war, as Afghanistan is an example on this. I will explain our aims as a group with regard to the "transitional infidelity council," the criminal "Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi," and Satan's coalition:" they are our target, they are our enemies, and we will vanquish them wherever they are.
Those who are fighting at the front lines (in Libya) are mujahidin for the sake of God, and they have no links to the transitional infidelity council that brought in the infidels, apart from a few of them who deliberately appear on the media organs, because they do not know anything other than stammering statements. [Al-Tawil] What within Algeria, focusing on the regime defeated
is the reason for the diminishing of your operations and transferring them to the coastal area only while kidnapping of foreigners for ransom? Has the Algerian you militarily?
[Abu-Muhammad] The tyrannical Algerian regime has not at all defeated us, and the fighting is continuing. The priority now is to fight on the side of our brethren in the land of [Umar] al-Mukhtar (Libya), and to push forward our martyrs and our lives for the sake of defending their honor and land, because they are Muslims. [Al-Tawil] What stage has the issue of the French hostages you are detaining reached? [Abu-Muhammad] Currently the negotiations over the ransom are taking place. [Description of Source: London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic -- Website of influential Saudi-owned London pan-Arab daily. URL: http://www.daralhayat.com]
Libyan NTC's Abdelkarim al-Hasadi Profiled EUP20110414029001 Paris Le Nouvel Observateur in French 14 Apr 11 [Report by Sara Daniel: "With the Jihadists of Derna"] Have Islamist fighters entered the ranks of the insurrection as people in Tripoli repeatedly assert? The Western secret services do not believe so. And yet... "To overthrow Al-Qadhafi it is not NATO we need, but God!" Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, the man standing before us in his camouflage vest, defines himself as a soldier and a believer who leads a katiba (training camp) with some 1,000 men. He becomes furious at the mention of the defense organization that has resumed its bombings around Ajdabiya: "When a man is drowning he holds out his hand to anyone, even the devil." AlQadhafi has put a price on the head of Al-Hasadi. During a meeting with the ambassadors of the countries of the European Union, Khaled
Kaim, the Libyan deputy foreign affairs mister, said this Al-Qa'ida member has established an Islamic emirate in Cyrenaica, that he imposes wearing of the burqa and liquidates people who refuse to yield to his religious decrees. Who really are the revolutionaries supported by the West? Have fundamentalists infiltrated the ranks of the anti-Qadhafi insurgents? These questions have haunted chancelleries, and particularly the American Senate. The secret services and experts ended up answering: no. While admittedly very devout, are not the members of the National Transitional Council profoundly attached to democratic principles? And if it is true that if the few bearded men with inscrutable faces sometimes encountered on the front line seem less clumsy than the others in handling rocket launchers, they appear to be the exception. Furthermore, the rhetoric of Al-Qadhafi, who in outrageous rambling before dumbfounded journalists that "all his people love him and this revolt was fomented by Al-Qa'ida," ended up making us believe that this crude propaganda lacks any foundation. Especially since the Guide sought to eradicate all the extremist groups, starting with the Libyan Islamic Group of Combat, which joined Al-Qa'ida in 2007. Abdelkarim al-Hasadi's comments show that the situation is undoubtedly a bit more complex. Cacophony of sermons To meet Al-Hasadi you must leave Benghazi and its rebels, who have a thirst for democracy, for freedom of expression, and who each day shout their hatred of Al-Qadhafi on the Corniche. You take the road eastward, passing the deserted ruins of Cyrene, the first city built by the Greek settlers in the sixth century BC. Go to the foot of the plateau that marks the end of the green pasture lands of the Akhdar jebel, to Derna, a city of 120,000 inhabitants with its rows of buildings worn by the sea air. Derna that paid a high price for its uprising against Al-Qadhafi in 1995 and whose inhabitants say that each family had someone who was a prisoner, tortured, or a martyr. Derna, the only city of Cyrenaica where the men do not shake women's hands and where the women are almost all in a burqa. Here, on Fridays there is a cacophony of prayers coming from the 35 mosques of the city. Abdelkarim al-Hasadi was the imam of one of its mosques until his participation in the 1995 Islamic revolt forced him into exile. Warlike, precise, what is surprising when you talk with Al-Hasadi is the almost brutal candor with which he expresses his hatred of the West and his religious extremism. He admits having engaged in jihad in Afghanistan where he spent five years from 1997 to 2002: "Madam, you do not go to Afghanistan to tend sheep..." There he associated with all the "bad guys" sought by the American forces: "I would be lying to you if I told you I had not met with the great heroes of the oumma. I did not have the chance to fight alongside Usama Bin Ladin, but I have dealt with Ayman al-Zawahiri (the number two of Al-Qa'ida)."
Arrested in 2002 in Islamabad by the Americans, he was transferred from one secret jail to another, ultimately landing in Bagram, the large American base at Kabul. As an irony of history it was Seif alIslam, Al-Qadhafi's son who, with his organization of assistance to prisoners, negotiated his release with the Americans. Since his return to Libya in 2002, Al-Hasadi has spent most of the time in detention, including three years in the infamous Abou Salim prison where he endured the worst physical abuses. His prison experience explains why he hates the United States as much as Al-Qadhafi. "I have long known that in reality it does not care about human rights," the shaykh explains. ""And if it does not intervene to stop the massacre of Misrata which it could easily do, it is because it has concluded a secret agreement with Al-Qadhafi." Former jihadists What role does Al-Hasadi play within the National Transition Council of the Libyan revolution? As a member of the Derna council he is responsible for security in eastern Cyrenaica. "We have crisscrossed the region to substitute ourselves for the militias of Al-Qadhafi," he explains. And if he commands a katiba of fighters of God, it is with the blessing of General Abdel Fattah Younes, the military head of the insurrection. This week he transported weapons to Misrata, trained fighters in Benghazi, recovered and adapted all the anti-air missiles he could find in the abandoned barracks of Derna. When he goes to the front it is incognito, because Al-Qadhafi's men are searching for him. Just last week they tried to kill him but the man assigned his execution refuse to do it, then confessed to the military leader, who seems to inspire great respect in Derna. Throughout our conversation Al-Hasadi received calls from people who want to know if he had been wounded and how he was doing. According to Achour Bourachid, one of the members of the Transition Council and from Derna, Al-Hasadi is under the council's authority and therefore harmless. This lawyer mentions the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. He is not bothered by the presence of fundamentalists within the revolution: "We are all Muslims," he says. "We are in the national liberation phase. It is not the time to exacerbate our differences. We will start to worry when these people speak out!" Al-Hasadi has three wives, one of them Afghan, the other two Libyan, and 12 children. He wants the establishment of sharia. "That is not his right," argues Achour Choukri Assi, one of the imams of Derna's Qaramanli mosque, the largest cupola mosque in Cyrenaica. He has also spent much time in prison for "extremism": "There are many of us sincerely calling for a democracy that will respect all religious customs," he says. In Derna, no one would think of depriving themselves of the military skills of a jihad fighter who says he has studied the history of Che Guevara and even written a study on
guerrilla warfare techniques. Yet the Islamist strategist's view of the insurrection is somber: "We do not have weapons, the chabab, these young inexperienced insurgents, get under our feet and hamper us. Militarily, Al-Qadhafi is the strongest. Fortunately he is not going in the direction of history. His days are numbered." To alleviate NATO's inadequacies, the guerrilla warfare expert explains that he is training volunteers from Derna who have all been repressed by the regime because of their religious beliefs. To listen to him, all the inhabitants of the city are prepared to go fight AlQadhafi. Among these young men who assure Derna's security while waiting to go to the front, at Ajdabiya or Brega, is Tarek al-Majri, a student at the fine arts college. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, he relates that he went to fight in Iraq in 2003 to help the forces of Saddam Husayn against the Americans. Tarek registered on the lists open by Al-Qadhafi to enroll Libyans in the defense of Baghdad: "But our departure was constantly postponed, and with my friends we decided to leave by our own resources." With Libyan engineers, lawyers, and doctors, he first went to Cairo, then Syria, where in front of the Iraqi embassy buses waited to take them to Iraq. Saddam's fedayin hid them in schools during the bombings. Then the young man was wounded as he was lying on his back to reload his Kalashnikov, the same day the Americans took Baghdad. He was very disappointed by the speed with which his Iraqi brothers surrendered: "We fought to the end!" asserts the student, who ends up admitting that Saddam Husayn was a tyrant as bloody as Al-Qadhafi even if he does not regret having "defended an Arab people against a foreign invasion." Abdul Salam al-Gadi, a former soccer player of the Derna team, is also a former jihadist waiting to be mobilized. After the 1995 uprising he left Libya to join the Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Tourabi in Sudan. Then he fought in Afghanistan alongside the faithful of Ben Ladin. In 2002 he fled to Iran, where he was arrested by the Sepah, the political police of the mullah regime. From then and until the fall of the Al-Qadhafi regime in Cyrenaica, he did not leave prison. From Iranian jails to those of Al-Qadhafi, including American prisons in Afghanistan like Bagram where the CIA agents asked him why all the Libyan jihadists came from Derna. "It is true, we are not angels," AlGadi acknowledges. "It is only in order to oust Al-Qadhafi that I support the strikes of the infidels." "They need to become truly involved in the battle," Abdelkarim alHasadi says with agitation, saying he is not against the Western military coalition. The Islamist military had warned that, if the international community wavers too long its nightmare could come true: "We have a large frontier with Algeria, where Al-Qa'ida is located. The government of Tunisia is extremely weak and Egypt is unstable. For the time being the boundaries are being maintained, but if the West refuses to help us then we will have to turn to other forces," Abdelkarim threatens, intimating that he still has excellent contacts
with his former jihad comrades: "Contrary to what Al-Qadhafi maintains, I am not a member of Al-Qa'ida. But if the situation of instability lasts I would not hesitate to resort to them!"
[Description of Source: Paris Le Nouvel Observateur in French -- leftof-center weekly magazine featuring domestic and international political news]
Residents of Libyan Town Deny Al-Qa'ida Links, Say Main Aim To Topple Al-Qadhafi GMP20110413054009 Abu Dhabi The National Online in English 10 Apr 11 [Report by Rolla Scolari: "Libyan Town Denies Terror Links, Sets Sights On Ousting Qaddafi"] DARNA, Libya // Seated around a white plastic table in the madrassa of a mosque, members of Darna's governing council last week insisted their city was not infested with jihadis as some in the West have suggested. Some Western authorities are worried about Darna and its radical links as they mull whether to arm Libya's struggling rebel forces against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's regime. The city of 85,000 inhabitants, with its vibrant market place and freshly painted houses, does not look at first glance more conservative than other towns in eastern Libya. Nevertheless, files found by United States forces in 2007 in an al Qa'eda safehouse in Iraq showed that the second highest percentage of foreign jihadis in the country were Libyans from the east, 60 per cent of them from Darna. In 2008, US diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks said that the city was getting more conservative under the influence of former jihadis returning from fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Darna, no one denies the involvement of some residents in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was with a certain pride last week that 24year-old Said al-Sheari, who had just returned from eight days on the Libyan front, said he was trained by two Darna men who had fought in Afghanistan: Abdel Hakim al-Hasidi and Abu Sufian Bin Qum. Abdel Hakim al-Hasidi is the man now in charge of security in the city. In previous press interviews, he said he fought against
coalition forces in Afghanistan. In an interview with The National, however, he admitted to being in Afghanistan in the 90s but denied fighting the Americans. Wearing combat fatigues, Mr. al-Hasidi said last week he was detained by US forces in Pakistan and later turned over to the Libyans who imprisoned him for four years. He denied any relationship with al Qa'eda and assured that his primary aim is to topple the Qaddafi regime. He said he has trained and sent to the frontline 300 men. Abu Sufian Bin Qumu is no stranger to Western intelligence agencies either. He is a former Guantanamo inmate who was arrested in Pakistan after coming back from Afghanistan in 2001. Guantanamo memos link him to al Qa'eda. US forces turned him over to Libyan authorities, who imprisoned him until 2010. In the madrassa of the Sahaba mosque in Darna, which has become the uprising's hub in town, young men and women hang hand-made anti-regime posters on the walls. Mansour al-Hasidi, a teacher wearing a corduroy jacket and a long thick beard that makes him look more like a Bakunin revolutionary than a pious Muslim, accused the Qaddafi regime of spreading rumours to undermine the rebel cause. At the beginning of the uprising, town residents declared the birth of an "Islamic state of Darna". "In the streets, the al Qa'eda ideology would not pass here, even if there are people who went fighting abroad," he said. Most of the jihadis were supported by Col Qaddafi's regime, according to city council members. Tarek al Majri, 30, still has a government card that proves he went to fight in 2003 along with the anti-occupation forces of Saddam Hussein. He showed a long scar on his left calf. "I was wounded during a battle against American forces at Baghdad airport in the first days of the invasion," he recalled. Mr. al Majri enlisted at the local university, where the regime had opened a recruting bureau for those looking to fight in Iraq. The Islamist sentiment in Darna, said some analysts, is linked to a tradition of opposition. The town boasts that it fought an American Marine invasion in 1804, and fiercly resisted the Ottoman and the Italian rule. In the 1990s, Darna was the site of a protracted battle between the regime and the Libyan Islamic Fighiting Group, an Islamist group formed by Libyans who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Because of the delibarate attempt of the central government to disenfranchise the east of the country, "anti-Qaddafi's feelings
linked up with Islamists sentiments", said Jason Pack, a Libya expert at Oxford University who believes Islamist groups were more focused on undermining the regime than fighting a global war. "At a certain point, the only form of opposition left in the country was through the mosque," Mr Pack said. "Today, Islamists groups would not be able to really gain the support of the population and because of the long regime repression they are not organised enough to pose a serious threat in Libya." [Description of Source: Abu Dhabi The National Online in English -Website of leading government-owned daily; URL: http://www.thenational.ae/]
UK Source Warns Plan To Send Troops Into Libya May Empower Militants, Al-Qadhafi EUP20110408031008 London Times Online in English 08 Apr 11 [Commentary by Alison Pargeter: "Tread Carefully. That Means No Ground Troops"] As Libya threatens to drift towards a stalemate, it is being suggested for the first time that former British troops might put their boots on Libyan soil. Every effort will be made to avoid the interpretation that these are foreign soldiers coming to fight Colonel Gaddafi [AlQadhafi]: they would be veterans, not serving troops; they would train the rebels, not fight; they would work as contractors for Arab nations, not employees of the British State. The coalition is right to step cautiously. Among the rebels in eastern Libya are jihadists, some of whom fought against Western troops in Iraq. Most of these militants were part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a jihadist movement established in the camps of Afghanistan in 1990. In 2009 they renounced violence in return for their release from prison, reinventing themselves as a force for moderation. But their presence on the rebel front lines has prompted fears that we may be inadvertently supporting al-Qaeda [Al-Qa'ida], creating a new jihadist hotspot on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. This is an idea that the Gaddafi regime would very much have us believe. Such a simplistic idea fails to acknowledge the true nature of the militants fighting in Libya, but also where they fit in the Islamist camp. It is true that a disproportionately large number of Libyans
went to fight in Iraq. But fighting foreign is under attack does not necessarily equate Many moderate Muslims insist that defending invasion is a religious duty and that those involved in legitimate resistance.
forces when a Muslim land to support for al-Qaeda. Muslim lands from foreign fighting in Iraq were
The LIFG always had an overtly nationalistic agenda -- to topple Gaddafi -- and was explicit in its objection to Osama Bin Laden [Usama Bin Ladin]and al-Qaeda. Despite claims on jihadist websites, there are no indications yet that these militants are operating separately from the rest of the rebels. While there is some public sympathy for those militants who endured long years in Gaddafi's prisons, there is limited public appetite for an Islamic solution, yet alone a militant one. And there are bigger forces at play. These militants are up against powerful tribal leaders, non-violent Islamists and more secular forces, all of whom currently support the vision of a civil state based broadly on liberal democratic principles. The militants have already acknowledged that this revolution is not theirs and that for the first time people in the region are not marching to the drum of ideology. But that leaves no room for complacency. The east of Libya has always been the main focus of Islamist opposition and some former members of the LIFG may not have been entirely convinced by the group's shift against violence. If Western ground troops were to enter Libya, it might tip the balance. While these militants are surprisingly accepting of the nofly zone and are likely to welcome former British soldiers coming to train them in their attempt to topple the regime, a ground invasion might cause them to turn their wrath against the West. As the former LIFG member Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi explained: "If there are foreign forces on Libyan soil we will fight them before we fight Gaddafi." What might also strengthen the militant cause are claims by the rebel opposition that the British Government has made them sign an apology for Lockerbie and for IRA attacks carried out with Libyan- supplied explosives. There is even the suggestion that they have been told to compensate victims of IRA attacks. Such moves will undermine National Council and lead more than a puppet of the of the Gaddafi regime, it motives and play directly militant agenda.
the credibility of the Interim Transitional to accusations that it has become little West. This will not only strengthen the hand will also feed popular suspicions of Western into the h ands of those with a more
Alison Pargeter is author of The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition
[Description of Source: London Times Online in English -- Website of influential center-right daily The Times; URL: http://www.thetimes.co.uk]
French Blog Notes 'Alarming' Signs of Al-Qa'ida Presence in Libya EUP20110403029002 Paris L'Orient Indiscret in French 02 Apr 11 [Posting by Georges Malbrubnot: "Al-Qa'ida in Libya: The Disturbing Facts"] As the Western countries are wondering about the advisability or arming Libya's rebels, the main intelligence agencies lack information about Al-Qa'ida members infiltrating the anti-Al-Qadhafi insurgency. Addressing the US Senate, Adm James Stavridis, commander of the NATO forces in Europe, has cited "suspicions" of the presence of jihadis among the insurgents. "We must be very cautious when talking about arming the rebels," Le Figaro was told by Mike Shereur, a former senior CIA officer in charge of the hunt for Usama Bin Ladin. "The Libyans were among the first to establish their own training camp in Afghanistan, in the mid-1980s. They now play a major role around Bin Ladin -- whether Abu Yaya, Al-Qa'ida's third in command, or Abu Laith, one of the terrorist organization's main military chiefs." The United States is not unaware that Libya was one of the main suppliers of foreign mojahedin in Iraq. In December 2007, at Sinjar (north of Baghdad,) the Pentagon found 700 files recording the countries of origin, motivations, and backgrounds of each of the foreign jihadis that had entered the country via Syria. The conclusions of the Sinjar report can only feed anxieties. At that time, the Libyans were the second largest contingent of jihadis, behind the Saudis, with 112 Libyans, that is, almost 20 percent of the foreign jihadis that entered Iraq at the height of the violence, in 2006 and 2007. Well ahead of the Algerians, Syrians, and Yemenis. Another alarming fact is that Darnah, one of the strongholds of the anti-Al-Qadhafi rebels, is the city that supplies the most jihadis, ahead of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Of the 112 Libyans who entered the former Mesopotamia, 53 were from Darnah and 21 from Benghazi, the capital of the insurgency against Tripoli. Last, the Libyan mujahidin were were the most steadfastly resolved to act suicide bombers. No fewer than 85 percent of them deliberately chose to die as martyrs.
Abu Abbas, Abu al-Qalid, and Abu Baqr -- their noms de guerre -- were identified as "employee," "student," or "teacher," in other words, they came from all strata of society, like those now struggling to free themselves from Al-Qadhafi's yoke. Having long opposed the Tripoli regime, Darnah and Benghazi are in fact strongholds of radical Islamism. In the mid-1990s the two cities were the scene of extremely violent fundamentalist risings against AlQadhafi, who had to resort to combat helicopters to subdue the "bearded ones." In recent years the growing involvement of Libyans in the worldwide jihad has been the direct result of Bin Ladin's endorsement, in November 2007, of Al-Qa'ida's Libyan branch -- Jama-ah Al-Libiyah AlMuqatilah. Many Libyans have certainly died in Iraq, but not all of them. One was arrested at the end of last year, during the dismantlement of an Al-Qa'ida cell in Baghdad. People returning to Libya are currently being closely watched by Western spies, who are also trying to discover how many Afghan veterans are fighting with the rebels. One of them, Abd al-Haqim al-Hasadi, recently spoke to an Italian newspaper. "The members of Al-Qa'ida are good Muslims and are combating the invader," the newspaper was told by this mujahid from Darnah, who returned from Afghanistan in 2002. According to Il Sole24 Ore, the radio station in that city is broadcasting the following message: "Brothers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the time has come for you to defend your own land." "There must be no question of making the same mistake as an in Afghanistan," one French diplomat warned, citing the supplies of US weapons given to the jihadis, before the latter used them against their former allies. In Libya, Al-Qa'ida supporters now have every interest in disguising their friendships. They need the West in order to get rid of AlQadhafi and to establish their positions. It is rather like the Shiites rebels of Iraq, who welcomed US troops with open arms and 2003 so that democracy would grant them power. That was before they turned their weapons on their liberators. [Description of Source: Paris L'Orient Indiscret in French -- Blog by Middle East corresponent Georges Malbrunot, hosted by website of Le Figaro, leading center-right daily; URL: http://blog.lefigaro.fr/malbrunot/]
Libyan Rebel Source Says Underground in Tripoli Considering Suicide
Bomb Attacks EUP20110415031003 London Guardian.co.uk in English 15 Apr 11 [Report by Harriet Sherwood in Tripoli: "With Tripoli's Rebel Underground"] He was rummaging in the boot of his car as we walked past. "Go forward," he instructed out of the side of his mouth. "I'll pick you up further on." The car circled several times before he stopped. In a snatched conversation on the phone, he told us he feared he was being watched. Eventually he felt confident enough to draw up. "You want to go to the fish market?" he called through the lowered window. "Get in." No, we didn't want to go to the fish market, but as rare and highlyrestricted westerners in Tripoli, we both needed a cover story for why we were getting in a Libyan's car. Our contact was a middle-aged opposition activist in the heart of Muammar Gaddafi's [Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi] stronghold. Fear and danger are rife; the stakes are high. During the course of an hour-long conversation, he told us that activists in Tripoli, frustrated by the violent suppression of peaceful protests, were now resorting to guerilla tactics to try to bring down the regime. Even suicide bombings were being considered, he said. His claims cannot be verified or properly evaluated, but they echo accounts obtained by other journalists in Tripoli, and help piece together a picture of underground opposition in the regime-held west of the country. Our contact took us to a safe house some distance from the city centre. "I am not going to tell you my name, and I don't want to know yours," he said. Before we left, he insisted we delete his phone number from our mobiles. "They are going to catch me soon," he said with a shrug. He suspected his neighbour of being a spy for the regime - "supergrass" the word he used, reflecting his years living in the UK. "My name is on a list. Three or four of his boys are really interested in me." In the course of our discussion, he rarely called Gaddafi by name. "My family don't know about what I'm doing - even my wife," he said. He and his fellow activists communicate using sim cards bought from migrant workers who have fled the country. They speak in code and rarely meet. They have "a few friends in Benghazi", the heart of the
rebel-held east, with whom they are in sporadic contact. Shortly after the Libyan uprising began in the east of the country in mid-February, activists in Tripoli attempted to mount a protest in the capital's central Green Square. It met a violent response from the regime. The rebels were forced to retreat and reconsider their tactics. Now, the contact said, they were turning to guerrilla actions. They have attacked checkpoints across the city, killing the pro-Gaddafi militia and stealing their guns. The shooting that crackles across the city after dark, which regime officials claim is celebratory gunfire, is the work of the underground rebels, he said. "They (the regime] are covering up ... Every night there are attacks. The boys (on the checkpoints] have got scared. They are only getting 40 dinars (£20) a night, and they are saying we don't want to do this dirty work any more." There have been fewer checkpoints since the attacks began, he claimed. Asked how they felt about killing fellow Libyans, he replied: "If we don't kill them, they're going to kill us." The rebels, he said, were planning attacks on petrol stations. Fifteen police stations in the capital have been burned down since the uprising began, he said. And the "People gaining or kill
underground activists were preparing even bigger attacks. are ready for suicide bombings." He told us the rebels were access to explosives from fishermen who use dynamite to stun fish to aid harvesting.
The Libyan leader himself was their number one target, he said. How would they get near him? "We will. We can get near him." He also claimed that Gaddafi, sooner or later, would face threats from within his inner circle. "People on his side are not with him 100%. They are waiting for one spark. We are waiting for one or two army commanders to turn against him. Then we've got him." It is, of course, impossible to be certain of the credibility of what we were told. Reporters are denied free movement and access in the regime-held west of the country. But contacts made by other journalists in Tripoli have elicited similar information. Reuters this week reported opposition activists in Tripoli as saying there have been several attacks on checkpoints and a police station in the past week. It quoted a Libyan rebel sympathiser living abroad but in daily contact with activists in the capital as saying: "There have been attacks by Tripoli people and a lot of people have been killed on the army side."
Other snatched conversations point to dissent rumbling beneath the surface. In a quiet alleyway in Tripoli's old city, a 33-year-old man said he had a rebel flag hidden at home, waiting for the day when Gaddafi goes. "I have a tricolour in my house, I will bring it out when we are free." In a separate whispered exchange, a shopkeeper said: "Most people are against the system, but can't speak out." Another described Gaddafi as "stupid, a crazy guy, he killed many people". Many underground rebels have died at the hands of regime forces or have disappeared, our activist contact said. On 25 February, about 10 days after the uprising began, opposition activists took to the street after Friday prayers. "They were shooting straight away. Six or seven people at (one] mosque, eight at another. It's difficult to count. They pick up the bodies, then claim they were killed by the coalition (airstrikes]. "A lot of good boys are being arrested every day," he said. "They (regime forces] knock on the door. If it's not opened, they smash it down. "They pick up whoever is in the house. They picked up eight from here three or four days ago. They take the people at night. Some have been held for 50 days." It's impossible to find out what has happened to them or even to ask the authorities, he said. "If I get arrested, I don't want anyone to look for me because then they will be arrested too." The younger A man in the old city told us his cousin disappeared five days before our conversation. They came to his house and took him away, he said. "I can't even ask anyone where my cousin is, it's too dangerous." Thousands of people have disappeared in Tripoli since the crisis began, he claimed. Figures are impossible to obtain. Amnesty has documented in detail around 30 cases, mainly in the east of the country, while Human Rights Watch has reported a wave of disappearances and arrests in the capital. Our activist contact estimated that a substantial proportion of Tripoli's population oppose Gaddafi. "50% are against him, 25% are on his side and the rest are scared," he said. "But as soon as things change, they'll change quick." He rejected regime claims that al-Qaida is behind the Libyan uprising. "It's rubbish. He's lying. It's all bullshit, propaganda. This is a pure Libyan revolution. We don't rely on al-Qaida to do our job, Libyans do this."
He said he had high hopes of Nato [NATO] intervention assisting the rebellion. "I was very happy. I cried when 1973 (the UN resolution authorising military action) was passed, I thought that's it. People were screaming with happiness." Now Nato was not doing enough. Despite the opposition's struggle to gain ground in the east and the failure of the rebell ion - as yet - to take firm hold in the west, the activists will not give up, he said. "They are not going to stop us. You can only die once." Was he prepared to die? "Yes. For our freedom."
[Description of Source: London Guardian.co.uk in English -- Website of center-left daily with close links to New Labour; comment section covers whole political spectrum; read by well-educated, left-leaning urban professionals; URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk]
Italian Daily Quotes Libyan Intelligence Report on Islamist Presence Among Rebels EUP20110413058004 Milan Il Giornale.it in Italian 13 Apr 11 [Report by Fausto Biloslavo: "Rebel Affiliated With Al-Qa'ida Says: 'I Am Entering Italy With Illegal Immigrants'"] Tripoli -- "I am afraid of going to Italy. Is it safe?" This question was asked on a cell phone by a rebel who, according to the Libyan interior ministry, is linked to Al-Qa'ida. The man on the run escaped from Al-Zawiyah, the thorn in the side of Al-Qadhafi, 45 Km south-west of Tripoli, which was conquered by government troops in mid March after fierce fighting. The person on the other end of the phone, a commander of the extremist wing of the insurgents, reassured him: "Yes, now it is safe, the situation in Italy has improved for us." Following this reassurance, the rebel on the run joined a group of illegal immigrants who left from Zuwarah headed toward Lampedusa. This telephone call was wiretapped some 10 days ago, and seems to confirm the fears voiced by [Italian] Interior Minister Roberto Maroni "as regards the risk of Al-Qa'ida infiltrations" into the Libyan crisis. This wiretap affecting Italy was divulged to Il Giornale by Moftah H., who is respectfully called colonel. He is a chain smoker with tiny eyes and an icy expression. He leads the notorious interrogation station in Tripoli, where suspected terrorists are locked up. The information provided by the colonel must be taken with a pinch of
salt. Nevertheless, his report "The Al-Qaida Organization in Libya" is quite hefty. In recent years, Sayf al-Islam, Al-Qadhafi's son, insisted on releasing 705 members of the Libyan Islamic Combat Group and of the Muslim Brotherhood who were accused of terrorism. Among them was Abdal-Hakim al-Hasidi, who is known as the emir of Derna and who, at the time of the war in Iraq, recruited 25 volunteers whom he sent to Baghdad. Today he is a rebel commander and has admitted that some of these veterans are now fighting against Al-Qadhafi. The Americans discovered that at least 700 Libyans, mostly coming from Cyrenaica, arrived in Iraq, and that Al-Qadhafi's regime even helped them. According to Libyan security [not further specified], a former Libyan volunteer in the Afghan war, Abd-al-Latif al-Taruni, was killed in Brega, a disputed oil center with Italian investments. Also in Derna, a rebel bastion, Ibrahim Sufyan Bin Qumu, Usama Bin Ladin's former driver, is training young rebels. In 2001 he was captured in Afghanistan and jailed for six years in Guantanamo. On the Cyrenaica front, there are reportedly at least 300 Islamist extremists among the rebels. According to the report on Al-Qa'ida, in western Libya -- which is almost entirely under Al-Qadhafi's control -- the point of reference for terrorists is Abu-Ubaydi. He is a holy-war big shot who issues fatwas from Egypt. During a conversation wiretapped on 22 February, Tahir Husayn Tahir al-Khadrawi, "the driving force of extremist Salafi ideology, who has fought in Al-Zawiyah," asked Ubaydi for instructions with regards to the fate of captured prisoners. The answer was one that could not be appealed against: "Execute them with a gunshot to the head." Another cell leader in the international holy war is Murad Musa Salim Zakry, who is based in the southwestern Nalut region. Specialized in contraband, he was wiretapped last week while he was talking about "the arrival of trainers from Algeria." The suspicion is that these are Al-Qa'ida in the Maghreb veterans. According to Chad President Idriss Deby Itno, Bin Ladin's branch in North Africa has already "purchased weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, which rebels had looted from Libyan arsenals." In Zintan, Tripolitania, other jihad commanders are not giving up, such as Muftah Muhammad al-Alim Julghum -- who, according to Tripoli's report, apprehended "100 Africans who were returning to their countries of origin, accusing them of being mercenaries, and forcing them to enroll in rebel gangs." The internal security colonel, who has been dealing with Al-Qa'ida for years, said the following: "After the defeat of the Islamic Combat Group in Libya in 1996, many fled to Europe." Their main base has always been Great Britain, but, in cooperation with the Muslim
Brotherhood, they have also found shelter in the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Australia, and in particular, Switzerland. It is not by chance that the 17 February internet appeal that triggered the revolt in Libya came from Geneva.
[Description of Source: Milan il Giornale.it in Italian -- Website of right-of-center daily owned by the Berlusconi family; URL: http://www.ilgiornale.it]
Libyan Insurgent Claims Libyan Government Enlisted Combatants for Iraq EUP20110415025001 Milan Avvenire in Italian 14 Apr 11 p 8 [Interview with Libyan insurgent Tariq al-Magiri by Sergio Bianchi in Benghazi; date not given: "The Militiaman: 'The Americans Whom I Used To Fight Against Are Our Allies'"] According to reliable estimates, more than 150 young people from the eastern provinces of Libya enlisted in the international Arab brigades which fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them died in battle or in suicide attacks, while others, such as the famed Al-Liby, have become leaders of Al-Qa'ida. Meanwhile, still others have returned home. Col Al-Qadhafi has maintained several times that these people are Islamic fundamentalists. We tracked down one, who told us a different story. A true story. The story of the ties between AlQadhafi's regime and the combatants in the pan-Arab international brigades in Iraq. His name is Tariq al-Magiri. Today he is 28 and he lives in Derna, in eastern Cyrenaica. We met him in the city center, where there is one of the military headquarters of the Shabaab. Tariq sat outside a semi-destroyed gasoline station to tell us his story. "I decided to enlist together with 10 of my friends, as soon as the Westerners invaded Iraq in 2003. At the time, I was attending the university of Derna, and I wanted to be an architect." [Bianchi] How did you manage to enlist? [Al-Magiri] There was a Libyan government enrolment office inside Derna University. I registered. The Arab world is a single bloc. there is a war in Syria, Iraq, or Egypt, wherever, we will go this very day. We were fighting against the occupation, for the Arab people, not for Saddam, just as we are doing here today, we are fighting for the Libyan people, against the dictator.
[Bianchi] But back then it was Al-Qadhafi's regime that helped you to go? [Al-Magiri] They enrolled us, and gave [us]our visas and instructions. We passed through Egypt and Syria, and from there, via the Iraqi Embassy, we arrived at the training camp, where we were assigned to the Fedayn brigades of Saddam. When we returned, after the fall of Baghdad, a Libyan envoy came to fetch us at Cairo airport, with all the honors. [Bianchi] What did you learn in Iraq? [Al-Magiri] That we are all Arabs, all equal. There were thousands of us from all the Arab countries, and of all ideologies: Islamists, nationalists. A very large number, but all brothers. And also military training in all weapons, light and heavy arms. The things I learnt in Iraq turned out useful here for everyone. [Bianchi] Did you fight in the field in Iraq? [Al-Magiri] At Baghdad airport, for three days, before they betrayed us, before Saddam's army fired at the mujahiddin. It was when the Americans entered Baghdad, and the city fell. There I was hit in the legs, and I found myself first at Yarmuk hospital, and then in Syria for five days, and finally in Cairo once again. Two or three of us from Derna became martyrs in Iraq. [Bianchi] Did you kill any Americans? [Al-Magiri] Yes, of course, at the airport during the battle, I had an RPG, we fired like madmen, they were advancing. I don't know if they were Americans, or Britons. But I want to tell you that I am not a terrorist, I am a watany, a nationalist, I know how to tell the difference between a friend and an enemy. [Bianchi] What is the difference? [Al-Magiri] That today, here, we are allies of the Americans, who are helping us, like you Italians, like NATO. Like you, today we are fighting against the dictators. [Al-Magiri ends] Tariq's expression was relaxed. He seemed unaware of the contradictions, while he adjusted the new armband of the militia of the shabaab of Derna. Perhaps he did not even know that the colors of that flag are the same as the monarchic Cyrenaica. His eyes bore the same expression as many other young militiamen like him, whom we have seen in recent years in Lebanon, Palestine, or on the many fronts in this Arab world which is increasingly in a state of turmoil. For 42 years Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi sowed a whirlwind, and today he is
reaping a storm which will bring him down. We wondered what Tariq will harvest tomorrow: "I ha ve a three-year old son called Fathallah -- he said, as he accompanied us out of the base -- He wanted to see my Kalashnikov, and I told him that it is needed to liberate our country."
UK Source Warns Plan To Send Troops Into Libya May Empower Militants, Al-Qadhafi EUP20110408031008 London Times Online in English 08 Apr 11 [Commentary by Alison Pargeter: "Tread Carefully. That Means No Ground Troops"] As Libya threatens to drift towards a stalemate, it is being suggested for the first time that former British troops might put their boots on Libyan soil. Every effort will be made to avoid the interpretation that these are foreign soldiers coming to fight Colonel Gaddafi [Al-Qadhafi]: they would be veterans, not serving troops; they would train the rebels, not fight; they would work as contractors for Arab nations, not employees of the British State. The coalition is right to step cautiously. Among the rebels in eastern Libya are jihadists, some of whom fought against Western troops in Iraq. Most of these militants were part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a jihadist movement established in the camps of Afghanistan in 1990. In 2009 they renounced violence in return for their release from prison, reinventing themselves as a force for moderation. But their presence on the rebel front lines has prompted fears that we may be inadvertently supporting al-Qaeda [Al-Qa'ida], creating a new jihadist hotspot on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. This is an idea that the Gaddafi regime would very much have us believe. Such a simplistic idea fails to acknowledge the true nature of the militants fighting in Libya, but also where they fit in the Islamist camp. It is true that a disproportionately large number of Libyans went to fight in Iraq. But fighting foreign forces when a Muslim land is under attack does not necessarily equate to support for al-Qaeda. Many moderate Muslims insist that defending Muslim lands from foreign invasion is a religious duty and that those fighting in Iraq were involved in legitimate resistance. The LIFG always had an overtly nationalistic agenda -- to topple
Gaddafi -- and was explicit in its objection to Osama Bin Laden [Usama Bin Ladin]and al-Qaeda. Despite claims on jihadist websites, there are no indications yet that these militants are operating separately from the rest of the rebels. While there is some public sympathy for those militants who endured long years in Gaddafi's prisons, there is limited public appetite for an Islamic solution, yet alone a militant one. And there are bigger forces at play. These militants are up against powerful tribal leaders, non-violent Islamists and more secular forces, all of whom currently support the vision of a civil state based broadly on liberal democratic principles. The militants have already acknowledged that this revolution is not theirs and that for the first time people in the region are not marching to the drum of ideology. But that leaves no room for complacency. The east of Libya has always been the main focus of Islamist opposition and some former members of the LIFG may not have been entirely convinced by the group's shift against violence. If Western ground troops were to enter Libya, it might tip the balance. While these militants are surprisingly accepting of the nofly zone and are likely to welcome former British soldiers coming to train them in their attempt to topple the regime, a ground invasion might cause them to turn their wrath against the West. As the former LIFG member Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi explained: "If there are foreign forces on Libyan soil we will fight them before we fight Gaddafi." What might also strengthen the militant cause are claims by the rebel opposition that the British Government has made them sign an apology for Lockerbie and for IRA attacks carried out with Libyansupplied explosives. There is even the suggestion that they have been told to compensate victims of IRA attacks. Such moves will undermine the credibility of the Interim Transitional National Council and lead to accusations that it has become little more than a puppet of the West. This will not only strengthen the hand of the Gaddafi regime, it will also feed popular suspicions of Western motives and play directly into the h ands of those with a more militant agenda. Alison Pargeter is author of The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition
[Description of Source: London Times Online in English -- Website of influential center-right daily The Times; URL: http://www.thetimes.co.uk]
Libyan rebel's story shows links to Taliban, Al Qaeda, NATO 'We are Libyans fighting for Libya,' said the rebel fighter, whose life led him to all sides so he could continue his battle against Kadafi. By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times April 17, 2011 Reporting from Ajdabiya, Libya He once lived under the Taliban's protection, met with Osama bin Laden and helped found a group the U.S. has listed as a terrorist organization. He died in a secondhand U.S. military uniform, ambushed by Moammar Kadafi's men as he cleared a road after an airstrike by his new NATO allies. Aides to Abdul Monem Muktar Mohammed say the Libyan rebel fighter was leading a convoy of 200 cars west of this hotly contested strategic city Friday when a bullet struck him on the right side of the chest. He opened his passenger door and jumped out. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby. "Don't wait, go," he yelled to his men. Then he got to his feet, staggered a few steps and fell. Mohammed's final days were a mirror of his past, of a life that saw contradictions and intersections with U.S. policy, ones that could return to haunt the United States. He arrived in Afghanistan in 1990 at the conclusion of the mujahedin's silent partnership with the United States against the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. The following decades saw him become an international pariah, operating in an underground world of armed training camps and safe houses. But with the revolt against Kadafi that started in February, he once again found himself in an uneasy alliance with the United States. * Five days before he died, with gray in his hair and bags under his eyes, Mohammed climbed a concrete tower on the outskirts of Ajdabiya
and phoned in positions to the rebel government so NATO could drop bombs on Kadafi's forces. Putting down his Thuraya satellite phone, Mohammed waved a shiny black 9-millimeter pistol on a road filled with empty bullet casings and waited for the explosions. A few hours later, Mohammed and his Omar Mukhtar brigade, one of the new military units officially sanctioned by the opposition government, rejoiced as blasts shook the city. A few started dancing and singing "God is great." "I have never been Al Qaeda now or in the future," Mohammed said as he watched his men clap. "We are religious and ordinary people. We are Libyans fighting for Libya." The onetime holy warrior boasted that he even wanted a close battlefield relationship with NATO. But he also bristled at Western double standards. Why, he grumbled, does NATO so readily bomb the Taliban in Afghanistan but hesitates against Kadafi? Still, he would take any firepower he could get. He wished he had his own direct line to NATO rather than communicating through middlemen. He laughed and said, "Give me their number." Rebel leaders are sensitive to criticism by some in the West that Al Qaeda "fellow travelers" are deeply involved in the fight against Kadafi. With some defensiveness, they say Afghan veterans such as Mohammed, 41, were pushed to extremes by Kadafi's authoritarian rule, and that with freedom, the danger of a homegrown militant extremist threat has faded. But there are many unanswered questions about Libya's anti-Kadafi forces, with at least 20 former Islamic militant leaders in battlefield roles, according to the rebel army, and hundreds of Islamists participating or watching from the sidelines. All speak of unity and brotherhood, but in the new state, will they be tempted by a once-in-a-lifetime chance to overpower Libya with a conservative Islamist vision? The fighters themselves might not even know their answer, caught up in the moment's revolutionary fervor and vacillating between a longing for peace and their dreams of achieving an Islamic state. * Mohammed's journey started at age 20, when he left his home in western Libya and traveled across the border to Algeria, flew to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Pakistan, and made his way with four Libyan friends to Afghanistan in early 1990. The year before, more than a 1,000 Islamists had been jailed in Libya, and Mohammed decided it was better
to leave and try to follow a righteous path. He fell in love with the mountains and the Afghans' fighting prowess. With the fall of the old Soviet-backed Afghan regime in 1992, he and a group of other Libyan fighters decided to return home. They slipped across the borders. The veteran mujahedin called themselves the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, and vowed to kill Kadafi, declaring their ambition to form an Islamic state. Mohammed lived in the southern city of Sabha under an assumed name. He didn't dare contact his family. He hated Kadafi for detaining hundreds of Islamists and remembered the yearly public executions of political detainees and students. "Hitler was a good man compared to Kadafi," he said. A first assassination plot, in 1994, involved planting bombs at a celebration for Kadafi, but the explosives failed to go off. Two years later, he was involved in another botched plot when a man hurled a dud grenade at Kadafi. Mohammed acknowledged without a hint of embarrassment that he picked the bomber and the weapon. Mohammed escaped, first to Tunis, the Tunisian capital, and then to Turkey. He married an Algerian woman; they set up a home in Istanbul and had their first child. But when a colleague was detained and handed by the Turkish authorities to Libya, Mohammed fooled them with a fake Tunisian passport and fled. On the run, he learned that his family was paying the price for his failed plot against Kadafi. One of his brothers, whom he had met secretly for 30 minutes in 1996, had been jailed and would be locked up for eight years. There was only one place for Mohammed to go: back to Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban. He spent time studying in military camp, and in classes on politics and Islam. About 100 members of the LIFG congregated in Kabul, the capital, longing for the day when they could kill Kadafi and rule Libya in accordance with Islam. Here Mohammed would have his encounter with the two men who shaped the future of radical Islam: Bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri. In 2000, he said, he met the two men twice, once at a funeral and another time at a guesthouse. They exchanged pleasantries and nothing more, he said. Bin Laden later sent an emissary requesting that the LIFG join Al Qaeda, but Mohammed said the Libyan group refused. "Before 9/11, Bin Laden wasn't infamous. Everyone had their own projects and people. He was a wealthy man. Our project was to kill Kadafi. They offered for our group to join, but we were focused on
Libya." Mohammed remembered a brief meeting when the group debated whether to join Al Qaeda. He said they disagreed with Bin Laden's theory that if the United States was weakened, its Arab allies would fall. "We were concerned with Libya and nothing else. We didn't believe in killing civilians or fighting the United States," he told The Times on Tuesday. But there are disputes about whether the group ever did, in fact, pledge allegiance to Al Qaeda. In November 2007, Zawahiri and a senior Libyan Al Qaeda member with close ties to the LIFG said the group was joining the terrorist network. The LIFG followed with a strong denial. Mohammed insisted that the Libyan insurgents knew Bin Laden's 9/11 attack was a disaster for them. He was sure Kadafi would use the assault on the U.S. to hunt them down and woo Washington to his effort. "Sept. 11 caused a big problem for us," he said. "We rejected Sept. 11. It hurt our group. Kadafi was so happy." Within two days, the Libyans sent their wives to Pakistan and followed soon after. Mohammed left for Pakistan and then sneaked across the border to Iran. But instead of giving him a warm welcome, the Iranians imprisoned him for 7 1/2 years. At the time, Iranians were suspected of detaining Al Qaeda members for use as bargaining chips with the Americans. Other leaders were captured by the Americans in Thailand, he said, and then sent to Kadafi's jails in Libya. After his release, he lived quietly in Iran. The humiliation caused his voice to rise. "Don't ask me about this period," he said. When the Libyan revolt started in February, Mohammed came back almost immediately. After arriving in Benghazi, the rebels' stronghold, he met with heads of the rebel council and was made the leader of his own fighting brigade. The council issued him an ID badge proclaiming him "a general of the revolutionaries" and head of the Omar Muktar brigade, which he said had 150 members. Members of Mohammed's group, the LIFG, are scattered throughout the new volunteer army. Its leaders keep a low profile but met shortly after the uprising began to rename themselves the Islamic Movement for Change. On a recent day, Mohammed sat in an empty villa in Ajdabiya, on a residential street decorated with a pink flower hedge. He had just
come back from manning battle positions. Three fighters slept on a couch, cradling their rifles. He fiddled with his phone and wolfed down some boiled chicken and pasta. He said that, when the fighting is done, he dreamed of returning to his birthplace and being left alone. "I want to hand in my gun and be with my children," he said. Then he walked to his olive-green pickup, followed by his men.Libyan rebel's story shows links to Taliban, Al Qaeda, NATO 'We are Libyans fighting for Libya,' said the rebel fighter, whose life led him to all sides so he could continue his battle against Kadafi.
UK Source Says Britain Considering Plans To Arm Libyan Rebels Against Al-Qadhafi EUP20110327031006 London Sunday Times Online in English 27 Mar 11 [Report by David Leppard, Simon McGee and Michael Smith: "Britain Prepares To Arm the Libyan Rebels"] Britain and its allies are drawing up plans to arm the Libyan rebels to speed up the defeat of Muammar Gadaffi [Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi]. With coalition airstrikes failing to dislodge government forces in key towns and the RAF [Royal Air Force] now preparing to run sorties until at least June, defence sources say the rebels need shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons to combat the mobile artillery units that Gadaffi's military is using against civilians. "People are looking at arming the rebels, whether that's by us or by other states," said a senior government source. "If you want to improve the effectiveness of the rebels, then as well as pummelling Gadaffi's forces from the air when they threaten civilians, they could benefit from better and more modern weaponry." However, MI6, the secret intelligence service, has warned ministers that the move is risky. The opposition is described as "fractured", with some fringe rebel groups having ties to Al-Qaeda [Al-Qa'ida]. A key Libyan rebel commander, Abdel-Hakim Al Hasidi, disclosed last week that about 25 of his fighters were Al-Qaeda members who had
fought British and US troops in Iraq. Whitehall officials fear a repeat of the 1980s, when America supplied arms to anti-Soviet mujaheddin [mujahedin] fighters in Afghanistan only to find them turned against the West. Arming the rebels could also breach a United Nations embargo and would require a new resolution of the UN security council. A government source suggested the answer could be to leave the task to allied Arab countries whose role would be less controversial. "One option is to turn a blind eye and let the Qataris and Saudis arm the rebels," he said. Private talks on arming the rebels came as RAF sources said there were plans to keep patrolling the no-fly zone until at least June. New aircrew were warned last week that they will fly out to Italy at the end of April. Air chiefs say the commitment means they will need to postpone the scrapping in June of two Tornado GR4 squadrons to have sufficient aircrew to cover both Afghanistan and Libya. In Libya, rebel fighters recaptured the strategically vital town of Ajdabiya, including the western gate area that had been a stronghold of Gadaffi's forces. A bombing run by RAF Tornado ground attack fighters in the early hours of Friday left blackened tanks, an inferno and a swath of scorched sand in their wake. The charred remains of Gadaffi soldiers who died in their tanks were removed and laid out on the ground nearby. Western planes bombed the outskirts of Misrata, further west, to stop Gadaffi's forces shelling the city, a rebel spokesman said. One inhabitant said 115 people had died in Misrata in a week, with proGadaffi snipers still shooting people from rooftops. Western aircraft continued to strike strategic targets yesterday morning. The MoD [MOD, Ministry of Defense] said that missiles fired by Tornado jets had destroyed five armoured vehicles in Misrata and Ajdabiya.
[Description of Source: London Sunday Times Website of best-selling center-right Sunday coverage of national and international news Rupert Murdoch's New International; website URL: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk]
Online in English -newspaper; in-depth and politics; owned by only available on Sunday;
Libya: Islamic Fighting Group's Urwah Killed in Ambush by Al-Qadhafi Forces GMP20110418001001 London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic 17 Apr 11 [Report by Kamil al-Tawil, from London: "Islamic Fighting Group Loses Its Leader Urwah in an Ambush Near Ajdabiya"] The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has lost one of its prominent leaders in an ambush staged by forces affiliated to Col Mu'ammar alQadhafi in the east of the country two days ago. A leading member of the Islamic Fighting Group has said that the prominent member known as Urwah was killed in an ambush on the road between Ajdabiya and AlBurayqah, which the Libyan revolutionaries now are trying to recapture from Al-Qadhafi's forces. Urwah had not returned to Libya until after the spark of the revolution was triggered against the regime of Col Al-Qadhafi in the middle of February 2011. Urwah was detained in Iran for many years within a large number of members of Al-Qa'ida and other jihadi groups before he was released and returned to Libya to participate in the fighting against Al-Qadhafi. A leading member of the Islamic Fighting Group explains that the Iranian authorities arrested Urwah in 2004 during an extensive campaign that targeted the Arab Islamists who were secretly active in Iran. Before that the Iranian authorities captured another large group of Arabs fleeing from Afghanistan after the US attack between the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002. Urwah's detention continued in Iran until the end of 2010 when he was released within the major release operation that included the prisoners of Al-Qa'ida and the rest of the jihadi groups. They were allowed to choose the country to which they wanted to go. The Libyan Islamist stayed in Iran for a period of time after his release until he was able to arrange his travel back to Libya through Egypt and another country with the triggering of the spark of revolution against Al-Qadhafi. Immediately after his return to Libya, Urwah joined the fighting against Al-Qadhafi's forces, which were trying to recapture East Libya from the hands of the revolutionaries. However, Urwah fell two days ago in an ambush staged by the forces of the Libyan Colonel for a group of revolutionaries on the road between the western gate of Ajdabiya and the oil city of Al-Burayqah. Urwah is one of the prominent names of the Islamic Fighting Group. His name was mentioned in more than one attempt on the life of Al-Qadhafi
during the nineties of the last century. However, he managed to escape outside Libya, where it is believed that he spent a time in Afghanistan to which the leadership of the Islamic Fighting Group moved at the end of the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium. As is well known, the residence of the leadership of the Islamic fighting Group in Afghanistan did not continue for long, as the leadership was compelled to flee with the beginning of the US attack in 2001. The leaders of the group were scattered in various countries, where some of them fell into the hands of the western intelligence organizations that handed them over to Al-Qadhafi's regime, such as the Islamic Fighting Group Amir Abu-Abdallah al-Sadiq, and its Shari'ah Official Abu-al-Mundhir al-Sa'idi (they were arrested in Thailand and China in 2004). Despite the fact that Urwah is not a prominent media name among the leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group, his weight cannot be disregarded. There is nothing more indicative of this than the request by the group's leaders to consult him about the dialogs conducted by the imprisoned leaders with the Libyan authorities since the end of 2006. The former leading member of the group, Nu'man Bin-Uthman, told Al-Hayah in January 2007 after his meeting with the group's leaders in Abu-Salim Prison in Tripoli: "The leadership of the Islamic Fighting Group now wants to say that the members and leaders of the group are not only those in prison in Libya, but there are other members whose opinion, advice, and decision about the dialogs are very important. These members are specifically Shaykh Abu-al-Layth al-Qasimi, brother Urwah, Shaykh Abdallah Sa'id, and Shaykh Abu-Yahya al-Libi." As is well known Abu-al-Layth al-Qasimi was killed during a US raid in Waziristan in 2008 only months after the announcement of his joining Al-Qa'ida in 2007. Shaykh Sa'id al-Libi was killed on an unknown date in the Pakistani tribal region. Abu-Yahya al-Libi still is active now in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, where he issues recordings that explain Al-Qa'ida's stances, as he is considered to be one of its Shari'ah theoreticians. The Libyan authorities have released during the past two years hundreds of members of the Islamic Fighting Group and of other jihadi tendencies after six of the leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group issued jurisprudence revisions (Corrective Studies) in which they criticized the excess in the behavior of jihadi groups. The released leaders and members of the Islamic Fighting Group have not announced any stances or made any statements about the revolution currently witnessed by Libya. However, it is believed that a large percentage of those released have joined the revolution, especially in the light of the news reports about the killing operations and violations conducted by the forces of Col Al-Qadhafi. [Description of Source: London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic -- Website of
influential Saudi-owned London pan-Arab daily. URL: http://www.daralhayat.com]
French Commentary Examines Libyan Rebel Military Leader's Links to AlQa'ida
EUP20110826029001 Paris Liberation.fr in French 26 Aug 11
[Corrected version: removing superfluous word in first paragraph; Commentary by Pierre Perrin: "Abd al-Hakim Belhaj: The Return of AlQa'ida"]
The man who took Tripoli, at the head of the Libyan rebels, and who is now its de facto military governor is an old acquaintance of the US secret services. The CIA hunted, tracked, and finally captured him in Malaysia in 2003. It then transferred him, in the utmost secrecy, to one of its "secret prisons," the one in Bangkok. At that time Abd alHakim Belhaj, better known by the name of Abu 'Abd-Allah al-Sadiq, born 1 May 1966, already had behind him a fine career as a jihad, which began, as it did for so many other militants, in Afghanistan, in 1988. But the main reason why he was wanted by the CIA is that he was one of the founders, and indeed the "emir," of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG,) a small, ultra-radical grouping that during the years prior to September 11 had at least two secret training camps in Afghanistan. One of them was the of the utmost interest of the CIA -the one headed by Shahid Shaykh Abu Yahia, some 30 km north of Kabul, where the LIFG received volunteers linked to Al-Qa'ida.
Pakistan -- Bin Laden's organization indeed had many Libyans among its leaders, including Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was its military chief until his arrest in 2005, and Abu Laith al-Libi, one of Al-Qa'ida's military leaders, killed in Afghanistan in 2008. In 2007 the LIFG was endorsed by Al-Qa'ida on the Internet, by Ayman al-Zawahiri, then its secondin-command. The LIFG then called on the Libyans to revolt against AlQadhafi, the United States, and "unbelievers."
After Afghanistan, Abd al-Hakim Belhaj's trail led to Pakistan and Iraq. In this latter country, he was apparently closely associated
with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qa'ida's leader in that country, where Libyans constitute the second largest contingent of Islamic volunteers, after the Saudis. Following lengthy interrogation in Bangkok, and probably torture, by the CIA, he was handed over to the Libyan secret services in 2004.
In 2009, the Libyan regime, under the prompting of Saif al-Islam, AlQadhafi's youngest son, embarked on an unexpected policy of reconciliation with the LIFG. Perhaps as the consequence of the torture that they suffered, the Group's leaders published a 470 page document, called "corrective studies," in which they decreed that that holy war was illegal against Al-Qadhafi and permitted only in Muslim countries that had been invaded (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine.) That earned Belhaj his release from prison. He did not remain true to his word for long, because he joined the insurgents and became their leader in the West and in the mountains, leading them to victory in Tripoli. That success was made possible by NATO bombardments.
Has Belhaj distanced himself from Al-Qa'ida? It is difficult to say, because he has already perjured himself twice. It is difficult not to see his stamp on Interior Minister Abdel Fatah Yunis' assassination last month. "There's a good reason for that," one Libyan observer pointed out; "it was Yunis, when he led the special forces, that waged a bitter struggle against the LIFG in Cyrenaica, from 1990 through 1995."
Military posts: it is probably no coincidence that it is former LIFG members who now occupy the top military positions -- Belhaj in Tripoli, Ismail al-Salabi in Benghazi, Abd al-Hakim al-Asadi in Derna, and so forth. Ali Salabi is also a member of the National Transition Council. In 2009, it was he who negotiated, on Said al-Islam's behalf, the release of LIFG prisoners in exchange for their relinquishment of armed action. Things have come full circle.
[Description of Source: Paris Liberation.fr in French -- Website of Liberation, leading left-of-center daily ; URL: http://www.liberation.fr]
Highlights: Jihadist Forums on Position of Islamists After Al-Qadhafi
GMP20110826836002 Jihadist Websites -- OSC Summary in Arabic 22 Aug 11 - 26 Aug 11
From 22-26 August, jihadist forum participants posted reactions to the ascendance of Libya's National Transitional Council, offering their thoughts on how Islamists can strengthen their position in the coming period. Participants were unified in their suspicion of the Council, with many calling for amassing and not giving up "munitions and weapons."
Shumukh al-Islam Network in Arabic -- Salafi-jihadist, pro-Iraqi insurgency web forum with a focus on global jihad; established in April 2007; served as official online dissemination point for AlQa'ida and affiliate messaging since late 2008; URL: www.shamikh1.info/vb
In a message titled "A Workshop to Support Our Brothers in Libya: Give Advice in Your Responses," posted by "Al-Asad al-Tha'ir," user number 11681, thread 123625, the author urges forum participants to provide "advice," "articles," and "analyses" of the situation in Libya, as well as "pictures and videos that expose the collaborators and infiltrators that want to ride on the coattails of our pure, revolutionary brothers." The purpose, he says, is to "gather information about the Transitional Council and things said by its leaders. We also want the statements of NATO spokesmen and leaders."
A translation of selected responses follows:
"Marwan al-Kiyali," user number 12772, replied to thread 123625 saying, "I think that the brothers should found a political party and use it to spread their ideology and provide a legal cover for their activity...I oppose the ideology of Hizbullah...[but] this should not stop us from learning from their success in building a party that marries resistance and politics in perfect harmony." "They have read the political and sectarian map of Lebanon well," the author says, noting their success in "building a military force that deters any power from attempting to block their program," while simultaneously providing social and educational services. "If the brothers are able
to learn from [Hizbullah's] experience, while keeping in mind the particulars of Libya's situation, the Islamist experiment there will be among the most successful and be of great benefit to the ummah [community of Muslims worldwide]."
"Mula'ib al-Asna," user number 11095, replied to thread 123625 saying, "I advise the mujahidin in Libya to establish a professional media arm with all due speed, and draw media professionals and graduates from university media departments...They should quickly dissociate with secularists, nationalists, and those who hold destructive and defeatist thought, ∧ store as great a quantity of weapons and munitions as possible."
"Abu-Ziyad," user number 141, replied to thread 123625 saying, "I advise my brothers in Libya to not turn their weapons over to anyone. They should store the greatest possible quantity of munitions and weapons, as their current state is similar to that of the fall of Iraq regarding their access to weaponry, praise be to God, so they should not waste this opportunity." __________
In a message titled "Al-Qadhafi's Dog, known as Abd-al-Jalil, has started to incite and mobilize against the free Islamist revolutionaries," posted by "Abu-Muhajir," user number 601, thread 123345, the author responds to statements Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil made to Al-Jazirah about his willingness to resign if revolutionaries acted "brutally," with special reference to "extremists" among their ranks. He asks: "Has the dog Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil forgotten that he, personally, was the legal cover for the crimes, brutality, and animalism of Al-Qadhafi?..Will this dog go even further, or will he retreat and apologize to the free, Muslim people of Libya and bring this situation to an end? Is this an agreed-upon signal for NATO to set up a new Green Zone government in Libya?..Is this a starting point for a war against Islam in liberated Libya, which was liberated by Islamists in the first place?"
A translation of selected responses follows:
"Al-Mujahid al-Hur," user number 251, replied to thread 123345 saying, "It seems that the moment of truth has arrived and that the true battle has yet to begin; the battle of true Islam against the disciples of liberal, prostrating Islam. Let everyone be aware that
America is moving quickly and wants to reap benefits today, not tomorrow."
"Mu'askar Khaldan," user number 15697, replied to thread 123345 saying, "The battle of Tripoli is being led by Islamists. They are the ones doing battle, and it is not Abd-al-Jalil's place to order or prohibit anything. If he wants to do so, let him talk to his own followers."
"Mujahidun Bila Hudud," user number 1890, replied to thread 123345 saying, "I have said it before: If the brothers do not seize this opportunity, they will be killed, one-by-one. The closest people to them are the Muslim Brotherhood; and if the Brotherhood harbors such ardent malice against the jihadists, then what would you expect from the secularists and others brought up by Al-Qadhafi?"
"Hamzah al-Nadi," user number 1039, replied to thread 123345 saying, "O brothers of monotheism in Libya, the time has come to declare your presence. Praise be to God that the enmity was started by the NATOstooge council. Take advantage of his politically stupid and naive statement to turn the tables. If you let this chance pass you by, the council will control the country, the weapons, and the worshipers; and prisons, displacement, and massacres will be your lot."
Ansar al-Mujahidin Network in Arabic -- Salafi-jihadist web forum with a focus on global jihad, online since 2008; site correspondents reliably post Al-Qai'da and affiliate messaging; URL: www.asansar.com/vb
In a message titled "O Youth of Libya, O Monotheists, O Proud People: Warning, Warning! My Message to You," posted by "Al-Juwahir fi alKalam" user number 23132, thread 47116, the author warns against trusting the "apostate" National Transitional Council. "The apostate, infidel, criminal despot [Algerian President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika exposed them when he sought a commitment from the interim Libyan government to strike Al-Qa'ida in the Sahara...Therefore...unite around Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim Bilhaj...Your interim government is apostate. It made a pact with Sarkozy, the Zionists, and the Crusaders to kill everyone who wants Libya to be Islamic and everyone about whom America has doubts...Do not surrender your weapons or leave them at the battlefield. Take what you can now and hide it from the eyes of your government."
Hanin Network Forums in Arabic -- Moderately active web forum first established in 1999, hosts discussions and statements about jihadist and nationalist insurgent groups, especially those in Iraq; URL: www.hanein.info/vb
In a message titled "We are with the revolutionaries that do not cheer for NATO," posted by "Murasil al-Arabiyah," user number 6229, thread 255847, the author states that "We are with the Libyan revolution. We are with the revolutionaries that do not cheer for NATO. We are with the revolutionaries that do not say that NATO is a gift from God, like one revolutionary said in a call to Al-Arabiyah [television]. We are with the revolution undertaken by the Libyan people without the intervention of the Crusaders...Therefore, beware of the revolutionaries that praise NATO and raise its flag and call them liberators. Is there any comparison between this revolution and that of Umar al-Mukhtar? Did Al-Mukhtar request the aid of infidel states?"
Profile of Top Libyan Rebel Commander in Tripoli Abd-al-Hakim Bilhaj
FEA20110825021349 - OSC Feature - Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online 25 Aug 11
[Report by Husam Salamah in Cairo: "Abd-al-Hakim Bilhaj, Commander of the Attack on Bab-al-Aziziyah, a Former Fighter in Afghanistan. Civil Engineer Graduate Married to a Moroccan and a Sudanese"]
Abd-al-Hakim Bilhaj, commander of the revolutionaries' military council in Tripoli who emerged as the commander of the operation to liberate the Libyan capital at the Bab-al-Aziziyah battle before two days, was the amir of the Islamic Fighting Group [LIFG] which used to be called extremist.
The LIFG was established in Libya in the 1990s as a jihadist organization by Libyan elements after their return from fighting in Afghanistan. Abu-al-Layth al-Libi, one of Usama Bin Ladin's most prominent aides, led it from Central Asia.
Bilhaj was born in 1966, is a civil engineer graduate, and married to two women, one Moroccan and the other Sudanese. He left for Afghanistan in 1988 to take part in the Afghan jihad at that time and then traveled to several Islamic countries, among them Pakistan, Turkey, and Sudan. He was arrested in Afghanistan and Malaysia in 2004 and American intelligence interrogated him in Thailand before handing him over to Libya in the same year. He was released in Libya in 2008 and announced his renunciation of violence in 2009.
Bilhaj is known among the Islamic trends' circles as "Abi-Abdallah alSadiq" and he turned from being a hunted man in the LIFG into a hero who the revolutionaries handed the banner of liberating Tripoli.
The LIFG is one of the components of the revolution against AlQadhafi's regime and around 800 of its members are taking part in the fighting with the revolutionaries under Bilhaj's command.
Libyan Islamists were subjected to major repressive operations, especially during the past two decades, and the LIFG was crushed in Benghazi in 1995 and 1,800 of its members were jailed and released only after the group's ideological revisions in 2008 which were supervised by Sayf-al-Islam al-Qadhafi.
Al-Qadhafi's regime released 10 LIFG leaders (among 214 pro-Islamists) on 23 March 2010. Bilhaj was among those released in that batch in his capacity as the LIFG's amir and others like Abu-al-Mundhir alSa'idi, the group's former ideologue and theorist, and Khalid alSharif, the group's security and military official.
[Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/]
Web: Online jihadists hope for Islamic state in Libya following rebel successes
GMP20110824950052 Caversham BBC Monitoring in English 1600 GMT 24 Aug 11
FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY; NOT FOR INCLUSION IN OTHER PRODUCTS; NOT FOR BROADCAST
- Online jihadists react gleefully to swift collapse of pro-Qadhafi forces in Libya; forum members stress involvement of jihadist elements in anti-Al-Qadhafi effort
- Calls for Al-Qa'idah leadership guidance on how to proceed in Libya; excitement at media appearance of former Libyan jihadist group leader as rebel commander in Libyan capital
- Concern about western-backed anti-jihadist forces working against the establishment of an Islamic state in Libya; incitement to eliminate "secularist" rebel leadership
Online jihadists have reacted with delight to the swift collapse of forces loyal to the Libyan regime in the Libyan capital Tripoli, highlighting the battlefield contribution of jihadist elements. There have also been calls for Al-Qa'idah leadership comment and advice on the situation in Libya. Forum contributors have discussed the possible aftermath of Al-Qadhafi's defeat and have urged jihadists not to let western-backed enemies of Islam prevent the establishment of an Islamic state.
Many online jihadists seemed unsure of the current role of jihadists in Libya and what would be the best course for the jihad following the fall of the regime. The highly-respected online jihadist writer "Asad al-Jihad2" stressed the possibility that Islamist forces might soon take power in Libya, leaving them in control of a "powerful country" for the first time. He agreed that foreign powers and the National Transitional Council would try to stop this happening and noted that weapon stores were now being targeted by Nato strikes to stop them falling into the hands of the mujahidin.
Several contributors expressed the hope that senior Al-Qa'idah figures, and especially those originally hailing from Libya, would give Libyan jihadists clear guidance on how to proceed.
While there has been a good deal of comment on events in Libya across Arabic-language jihadist forums over the last few days, on 23 August Asad al-Jihad2 criticized members of Shumukh al-Islam for a lack of useful analysis and more in-depth comment on the site, at a time when, as he put it, the whole world was working to ensure the failure of the mujahidin's efforts. One forum member called on jihadists to provide clear news on developments and stressed the importance of monitoring YouTube and media reports.
Forum members have kept up a running commentary on events based on news reports and mainstream social media. Some members noted the return of Internet access for Libyans, noting that they had not had access to the Internet "since the beginning of the revolution". There were calls for online jihadists to exploit social media sites Facebook and Twitter to influence Libyans and to counter the influence of other trends.
Threats to Islamic future of Libya
Online jihadists expressed concerns about the possible aftermath of Al-Qadhafi's defeat and urged supporters of the jihad not to let western-backed enemies of Islam prevent the establishment of an Islamic state in Libya. Several forum members warned against the threat from internal and foreign forces opposed to an Islamic state in Libya. The US, the UK, NATO, the UN, and Jewish-Zionist interests were all highlighted as menaces to the Islamic character of the new Libya.
They compared the situation in Libya with that in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the Soviets, arguing that in Afghanistan the mujahidin had done the fighting but the "agents of the west" had taken power. However, the influential online jihadist writer "Abu-alFadl Madi" argued that Libya's distance from the malign influence of Shi'i Iran, and the religious homogeneity of the largely Sunni Muslim population would present serious difficulties for anyone trying to exploit and divide the efforts of the mujahidin.
A few members highlighted the danger of posed by Islamists who had revised their opinions on violent jihad. Others warned of the threat from more mainstream Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which is loathed by hard line jihadists.
Condemnation of National Transitional Council
Online jihadists generally agreed that the most dangerous threat came from groupings within Libya and there was condemnation of the rebel coalition - the National Transitional Council (NTC) - for what online jihadists described as its anti-Al-Qa'idah stance. Forum members reserved especial venom for NTC head Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil and several called for him to be assassinated. Clearly inciting against nonIslamist forces in Libya, some members hoped for the liquidation of non-jihadist elements and called for the slaughter of what they called "criminal secularist" members of the rebel administration. There were also calls for the killing of the rebel military commander Khalifah Haftar. Some forum members expressed the hope that civil war would break out between jihadists and secularists.
Calls for Islamic jihadist council
Several online jihadists stressed the importance of seizing the advantage at what they said was a pivotal moment for the jihad. They urged jihadist militants to build a "real and effective" presence on the ground in Libya. Some members called for a salafi jihadist council to be set up in opposition to the NTC. One member suggested the alternative council should consist of religious clerics and commanders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, some of whose members are allied with Al-Qa'idah.
Appeals to Al-Qa'idah
Some members discussed the possibility that a senior central AlQa'idah commander could be sent in to Libya to organize jihadist action there. One forum member called on senior Al-Qa'idah ideologue, the Libyan Atiyatallah al-Libi to offer his guidance on the rapidly changing situation. Others predicted that a message would soon appear from another top-level Libyan Al-Qa'idah ideologue Abu-Yahya al-Libi. We have not seen anything from this eloquent and charismatic figure since June, and Al-Qa'idah central appear to have had great difficulty
in reacting swiftly to fast-moving events in the Arab world. (See our report for "Web: Al-Qa'idah leadership urges individual attacks in West", published on 3 June).
Interestingly, Shumukh al-Islam forum member "Insan Ammi" (user number 12802) who appears to be operating within Libya, reported that AbuYahya al-Libi's brother was alive and fighting in the jihad, although he did not say where.
Although some said they would prefer to hear first from Al-Qa'idah leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in reaction to the fall of the regime, others argued that it would be better for a Libyan to address the Libyan people.
Other forum members called on Al-Qa'idah's North African branch to come to the aid of the mujahidin in Libya.
Jihadists on the ground in Libya
There was some discussion of whether there were actually mujahidin present on the ground in Libya, and some forum members called for jihadists to have the confidence to come out into the open. Some members pointed to the presence of senior commanders of the jihadist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) among the rebels. Shumukh alIslam members were particularly excited by the appearance of the former LIFG head Abu-Abdallah al-Sadiq (aka Abd-al-Hakim al-Khuwaylidi Bilhajj) on the Al-Jazeera channel, noting that he was captioned as the head of the NTC in Tripoli. Bilhajj was one of 200 Islamists released by Libya in March 2010 after they rejected the use of violence. Although forum members have inquired about his background and jihadist pedigree, they have not yet openly criticized him for his apparent rejection of armed jihad. (For coverage of his release from prison in 2010, see our report 25 August 2011).
Members of the key pro-Al-Qa'idah website Shumukh al-Islam hailed AlSadiq as a jihadist and argued that there were many mujahidin among the rebels who were true jihadists. Others claimed that most of the fighters who had taken Tripoli were jihadists and had nothing to do with the NTC. Forum members reacted happily to reports that Islamist inmates had been released by the rebels from the notorious Abu-Salim prison. They noted reports of clashes between unidentified Libyan
militants and the Tunisian military near the border between Libya and Tunisia.
It was interesting that little was said in general about potential differences between various strands of the jihadist movement in Libya. Forum members seemed concerned to ensure the success of the revolution against Al-Qadhafi, as a first step towards establishing an Islamic state.
We would normally expect to see wide-ranging debate on the situation in Libya on the broad-based salafi website Ana al-Muslim. However, the site's main discussion forum is currently closed, as usual, for the last ten days of Ramadan.
(Website posting numbers: Shumukh al-Islam 123310, 123337, 123350, 123342, 123325, 123291, 123269, 123119, 123477, 123417, 122956, 123480, 123413, 123473, 123453, 123432, 123435, 123414, 123404; Hanin 255067, 255038, 254982, 255367, 255353, 255360, 255356, 255355, 255292; Ana al-Muslim 448499, 448667, 448662, 448661, 448663, 448654, 448648; Ansar al-Mujahidin 46557, 46575)
Forum Member Urges 'Soldiers of the Islamic Emirate of Libya' To Establish Shari'ah
GMP20110823586001 Ansar al-Mujahidin Network in Arabic 23 Aug 11
[Message posted by "Al-Asyaf," user number 1879; date not given: "Urgent Message to the Soldiers of the Islamic Emirate of Libya"]
In the name of God; prayer and peace be upon God's Messenger.
It was reported that Salamah Bin-Nufayl al-Kindi said: "While I was in the company of God's Messenger, God's prayer and peace be upon him, and my knees were touching his knees as he was facing the Levant and giving his back to Yemen, a man came to him and said, 'O Messenger of God, horses are being humiliated and weapons are been laid down and some are claiming that the war has drawn to a close.' God's Messenger, God's prayer and peace be upon him, said: 'They are lying!
Fighting has just begun! And worldwide] will fight for the hearts of some men to provide them. And they will continue reported by Al-Nasa'i.
a party of my ummah [Muslim community sake of God, and God will deviate the for that party from them by fighting fighting until the Day of Judgment ',"
[In the commentary on Al-Nasa'i by al Kindi, he states that:]
Humiliating horses: Means ignoring them and belittling their importance or not using them for combat.
The war has drawn to a close: Means the war has come to an end.
Message to the Free People in Libya:
The statements of the tyrant of the Transitional Council, the socalled "Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil," and his associates from the old, defunct regime, the idols of the new Crusader Western regime, do not bode well at all, and we should not be generally optimistic about them.
It was because of them that the West has intervened to end the conflict in Libya for the benefit of the Transitional Council, and as a result, the Libyan case got out of the Libyans' hands themselves. Yet, we do not know the size of the role and the price that the Western countries fetch inside the Libyan territories as a result and fruit they sought to reap after this suspicious intervention.
Also in this regard, we can understand the statements of the Transitional Council regarding Al-Qa'ida in Libya. They were made not only to assure the Western parties, but they also represent internal fears and reflect vague and frightening future tendencies of the Transitional Council concerning the presence of Al-Qa'ida in Libya and the possibility that the group becomes more influential and dominant after the fall of the tyrant's regime, especially after the fighting Libyan Islamic group reorganized their ranks and possessed a large amount of weapons and ammunition. Add to that, the presence of the striking force of Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, which takes the Atlas Mountains as a safe haven.
And thus, the Transitional Council will not allow and will not listen to any voice that demands an Islamic state in Libya and calls for the establishment of the Islamic Shari'ah there. The Transitional Council knows that as soon as it alludes to the application of the Shari'ah in the country, the stance of the Western countries will change and they will stop supporting it.
We should know that the Transitional Council is now in an unenviable position because of the strong presence of Al-Qa'ida in the Libyan revolution. The Transitional Council does not want to find itself in an embarrassing situation with the Western countries if it admits that Al-Qa'ida is present in Libya. Besides, the Transitional Council cannot yield to Al-Qa'ida's demands to establish and apply the Shari'ah, nor can it now fight, eliminate, or pull the rug from under group's feet!
The monotheist brothers in Libya are now at a dangerous crossroad. They had better be more careful than ever before, and be on high alert for any war that will be imposed on them sooner or later because of their defense of the Shari'ah and their resorting to it. The war in not over and the course has not started yet.
You have a long journey ahead of you to institute God's rule in your country. Hence, be trustworthy and responsible enough and know that God was kind to you and honored you when He opened a door in your country to carry out jihad in His cause, and He honored you by making the tyrant's rule being eliminated at your hands.
Do not put your faith in this world. There is nothing more harmful to the mujahid after toiling and exerting himself than repose and relaxation.
Al-Asyaf, [aka] "Abu-al-Bara al-Maqdisi"
[To view the vernacular, click here.]
[Description of Source: Ansar al-Mujahidin Network in Arabic -Relatively new Salafi-jihadist web forum with a focus on global jihad, online since 2008; site correspondents reliably post Al-Qa'ida and affiliate messaging; URL: www.as-ansar.com/vb]
Hani Al-Siba'i 'Fears Doomed Future' Awaiting Post-Revolution Libyan Mujahidin
GMP20110824103001 Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies in Arabic 24 Aug 11
[Article attributed to Dr Hani al-Siba'i the director of Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies; dated 24 Aug: "The Frightening Fate of the Libyan Mujahidin As Sacrifices at the NATO's Doorsteps"]
The Frightening Fate of the Libyan Mujahidin As Sacrifices on the NATO's Doorsteps
By Dr Hani al-Siba'i
[Hani al-Siba'i's e-mail address is posted here.]
The Director of Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies in London
Praise be to God Who granted us the opportunity to witness the end of tyrants and the collapse of their thrones. Thrones that were built atop the corpses and skulls of innocent people! We have lived during
their era, and witnessed by virtue of God the beginning and the end of the corrupt, tyrannical, and arrogant regimes that spread mischief in the land! (The regimes of Mubarak, Zine el Abidine, and Al-Qadhafi) Those regimes bore down heavily on the chest of our ummah [the community of Muslims worldwide], plundered our resources, squandered our wealth, gagged [people's] mouths, killed the best of our children and elderly, violated the honor of chaste women, and sold the countries and the people to the enemies of our ummah for the cheapest price! They are nothing but a lowly band of evil-minded predisposedtraitors who took power by force and sucked the blood of the people. They have abused the rights of the ummah by means of false slogans under the protection of arrogant peer forces in the east and the west! Those rulers seized control of the Muslim countries and took the ummah by surprise!
Thus, abundant praise be to God for He took away the fear from the hearts of the people, who suffered, for so long, under the yoke of oppression and forces of injustice of security herds and henchmen of torture.
Praise be to God for He forced those rulers to drink from the glass of humiliation and disgrace! God wanted to prove to the Muslim ummah that He is the Lord of the entire universe and the owner Who manages what He owns as He so chooses! God also wanted to prove that such rulers are nothing but human beings and their thrones are much more fragile than spider webs! God has indeed surrounded them from behind!
After this introduction, I want to present my article as follows:
First: Why Libya and not Tunisia or Egypt although they were the first to carry out revolutions?
Second: What would become of the Libyan mujahidin once war comes to an end?
Third: The conclusion.
Firstly: Why Libya and Not Tunisia or Egypt Although They Were the First To Carry Out Revolutions?
This section is divided into several Topics.
The First Topic; Tunisia and Egypt:
BOTh regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown following peaceful popular uprising and not armed military movement! True, hundreds were killed and thousands wounded from among the protesters in Tunisia and Egypt but not as a result of the people's actions but because of the assaults carried out by the security forces of both regimes! There were no substantial slogans other than the demands to cease the oppression and improve the living conditions of the people. Then the slogan progressed, following the brutal actions of the security forces, to demand the departure of the head of the regime! Thus, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled to Riyadh and Husni Mubarak was deposed in Egypt! As to the military apparatus in both countries, they were forced to join the protesters or rather compelled to hijack the popular uprising and change its course in response to the demands of the rebellious masses that protested by the millions in every demonstration.
Therefore, the military leadership started to grant the people small installments of their rights! Piece by piece! That is why we still do not see any real change in Tunisia or Egypt as the military and the crying secularists are in full control! That is how the revolution was stolen and became more like a massive protesting movement that demanded the departure of the leader of the regime, and so he did and disappeared! Yet, he kept many heads and arms within the majority of the vital institutions of the state!
Thus, as the Western countries felt very secure about their interests, they declared support for the choice made by the people in Tunisia and Egypt. They did so after making sure that the military is in command, seen as the best guard for the Western interests and for the entity that is occupying Palestine! Therefore, no wonder why Obama and the European Union praised the Tunisian and Egyptian examples!
The Second Topic; Yemen:
In the rest of the countries inflamed by the popular uprising such as Yemen, Syria, and Libya: They are run by oppressive totalitarian
police regimes that share the common trait of being ruled by tribal, familial, and sectarian governments! Thus, their state institutions are not independent such was the case in Egypt and Tunisia!
Take the Yemeni example: The people there are traditionally armed and they have been protesting for over six month now! However, their revolution did not succeed as of yet to topple the regime of Ali Abdallah Salih despite being the weakest and the most precarious of all three!
In fact, in addition to the concentration of powers of the combined military, police, and local councils, and economic and social centers in the hands of Ali Abdallah Salih, his family, sons, uncles, cousins, and clan; the military did not rebel against him. Even the defection of some senior officers and military units did not affect him.
Why so? Simply because the Yemeni military is a mixture of clans, tribes, and sects that are controlled by tribalism, interest, and attachment to the governing regime!
Therefore, a given soldier is generally loyal to --the chieftain and not necessarily to his immediate commanding officer in his battalion! That is why we do not find any trace of those million people protests in Sana'a, Aden, Ta'izz, and elsewhere! However, this is very apparent in Tunisia and Egypt despite the fact that both the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples were not armed! However, the military leadership is neither clan nor sectarian based and looks only after its own interest! When the military commanders in Tunisia and Egypt realized that their interest lies with the revolting people, they forced both presidents to step down from power, one through escape and the other through ouster!
We also notice that the Western countries along with the United States are still favoring Ali Abdallah Salih and his regime. He was not menaced by the heavy stick known as the international sanctions or the pursuits by Mr Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [ICC]. Mr Ocampo is specialized in frightening the Arab leaders and rulers of third world countries!
Of course the silence expressed by the United States and the West is not out love for Ali Abdallah Salih.
However, it is attributed to the following: The strategic geographical location of Yemen and the similarity of its mountain ranges that favor waging guerrilla warfare just like in Afghanistan. Moreover, it is because of the location of Yemen in close of proximity to the Gulf region, to the oil wells, and to the US bases in Iraq and the Arab Peninsula. Furthermore, the Yemeni people have a lot in common with their peers in the neighboring countries of the Gulf and the Peninsula. They share the same religion, language, color, and customs. All of that in addition to the close proximity of Yemen to the Horn of Africa and the existence of the backbone of the Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] along with its headquarters in Yemen. They are afraid of declaring an Islamic emirate in Yemen even a miniature one! Another reason is the communications between the Islamic jihadist movements with al-Shabab [the youth] Mujahidin in Somalia and the fear of the threat posed against the military warships and Western interests that pass through Bab-el-Mandeb. All of the above factors and more prevent the US Administration from exerting pressure on Ali Abdallah Salih to condemn him and to compel him to answer the demands of the revolting people!
However, the United States knows that the people tend to keep silent for so long but once they revolt they do not allow others to live or die! They will not care for the US calculations and their intelligence reports! When the earthquake strikes, it destroys and swallows everything around it! That is why we see the United States delegating to the government in Riyadh the task of finding an acceptable substitute to play the same vile role that used to be ensured by the grandson of Abu Rughal [said to have guided the then Yemen Governor Abraha to Mecca to conquer the Holy City and destroy the Kaaba], Ali Abdallah Salih!
The Third Topic; Syria:
As to the situation in Syria, the regime there is a Nasiri [an Alawite Shiite minority sect that controls Syria] sectarian one that wears the cloak of national Ba'thism and carries the slogan of the front of steadfastness and resistance! This is the very same bloody and sectarian regime that annihilated over 30 thousand Muslims in Hamah in 1982 while the whole world watched and listened! However, what has changed is the fact that the very same suppressed Syrian people got infected by the contagion of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and so that they sought for themselves the winds of change! Therefore, they started a peaceful protest in Dar'a and other cities then the history repeated itself in Hamah once more!
Because the Syrian people nowadays have mobile phones, video cameras, and other sophisticated means of communications; they were able to broadcast the pictures to the world!
All the US and Western leaders did, to satisfy the Western popular opinion, was denounce the Syrian regime and ask Bashar al-Asad to step down!
However, they did not show the same level of seriousness as they did with Al-Qadhafi! The reason behind this is the fact that the Syrian state which, for so long, served the interests of the West and catered to those of the usurping entity that is occupying Palestine needs to function gradually and slowly using a step by step method!
The West is now preparing a substitute [to Bashar al-Asad] who is being asked to preserve the usurping entity that is occupying Palestine and to keep the Golan [Heights] as is! The West also wants the new leader to keep the status quo regarding all Palestinian organizations with their different factions in check within a country of a comic resistance front, overemphasizing the term: "strategic choice of peace!"
The role of Turkey during this period will be crucial and will be more important than the historically known role of Al Sa'ud! In Istanbul, the ready substitutes will be slowly groomed to be the new governors of the new Syria!
Therefore, after preparing the convenient substitute regime to the satisfaction of the leaders in Israel, it will be marketed on a global scale! The West will then use the same stick used by the Security Council, Mr Ocampo, and the NATO that was out of commission for nearly 40 years! Following its first experience in Afghanistan, it has failed miserably as indicated by its daily losses! However, it succeeded in Libya because it only fights from the air!
The Fourth Topic; Libya:
As to the situation in Libya, which is the subject of this article, the situation went through the same stages, in other words a peaceful protest was staged on 15 February 2011. Then, the situation witnessed the use of violence by the Al-Qadhafi regime and his brigades. They started to murder the protesters paving the way to the start of the revolution on 17 February 2011.
France, Great Britain, and the United States intervened before the United Nations and imposed travel bans and asset freezes on AlQadhafi, his sons, and senior commanders. That was followed by a nofly zone against Al-Qadhafi's air force over the Libyan airspace! The United States led the mission at the beginning only to delegate it to the NATO!
Then, defections happened among the Al-Qadhafi brigade s and his senior leaders such as Major General Abd-al-Fattah Yunis, who later joined the National Transitional Council [NTC] in February 2011 and was considered the most senior figure that joined the rebels. Additionally, many senior officers and soldiers joined the rebels in Benghazi. Next, the defections continued such was the case with Musa Kusa former Foreign Minister for Al-Qadhafi regime and former chief of the intelligence services. After that the defection of Abdel Salam Jallud right before the fall of Tripoli and the story goes on!
Right around that time, the NTC was formed and gained worldwide recognition under the leadership of Judge Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil, former justice minister in Al-Qadhafi Regime.
Simultaneously, the revolting Libyan youth were given weapons and led by the youth of the Islamic movements that were suppressed by AlQadhafi as soon as he took power. Those Islamic movements were led by the Islamic Fighting Group which saw the majority of its leaders in the Libyan prisons. Many of them took to the streets shortly before the revolution and were joined by a great number of Libyans who returned from outside Libya from Europe, the United States, some Arab countries, and from different other places! They divided up themselves into multiple brigades and battalions such as the Martyrs' Brigade in Tripoli commanded by Anis al-Sharif, the Tripoli Brigade commanded by Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj, the chairman of the military council in Tripoli, who used to be the amir of the Islamic Fighting Group in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, he fled Afghanistan passing through multiple countries until he was intercepted in Bangkok and extradited back to Libya on a private jet in 2004! There he is, after gaining his
freedom shortly before the revolution, he led the battalions of mujahidin!
The Reasons Behind the Fear:
Before elaborating on the frightening scenario and the unknown fate of the mujahidin participating in the liberation of Libya from the AlQadhafi regime, we want to shed light on some statements that are considered an introduction to a new guillotine to those mujahidin:
A. On 28 July 2011:
NTC Chairman, Justice Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil, announced the killing of the chief of staff of the opposition forces, MG Abd-al-Fattah Yunis along with two of his companions. According to some press agencies, Abd-al-Jalil added that Yunis was on his way to a meeting with an investigation committee following calling him in to discuss some matters related to the military affairs when a member of a group opened fire on him.
The news also reported that Yunis was taken hostage by a group of armed rebels to question him regarding some dubious relationships between some members of his family and the Libyan leader Mu'ammar alQadhafi.
MG Yunis is known as one of the officers who participated in the September coup d'état that was let by Al-Qadhafi and which eventually overthrew the royal regime of Al-Sinusi during the year 1969. He then became one of the closest advisors to Al-Qadhafi for the following four decades. He was promoted to a major general and was in charge, for a period of time, of training the special forces of Al-Qadhafi. Then, he was appointed minister of interior where he remained until he defected from the regime on 22 February 2011 shortly after the eruption of the Libyan revolution. Next, he was appointed commander of the Libyan opposition forces in April 2011 but he his loyalty to the opposition was questioned by some circles on the basis of his relationship with Al-Qadhafi.
He was accused by the rebels of being a double agent within the NTC and they refused to obey his orders. He was also accused of
maintaining communications between him and the agents of Al-Qadhafi in Europe. Thus, they killed him! However, when Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil became aware that some Islamic rebels were behind the killing of MG Abd-al-Fattah Yunis, he declared to the media that he was not honored to be the chairman of a council that leads these radical Islamic groups! He described them as anarchic with his clear mobilizing tone!
B. On 20 Ramadan 1432, Corresponding to 20 August 2011:
In a breaking news headline on Al-Jazirah channel, the H-hour was announced that the rebels from within Tripoli are starting their revolution simultaneously with the start of takbir supplications [exclaiming God is Great] coming from minarets shortly before the dusk prayer. Then, the Al-Jazirah channel hosted a bearded man wearing a military uniform who was presented as the commander of Tripoli Brigade. He was the engineer Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj formerly nicknamed as Abdallah al-Sadiq when he was the amir of the Islamic Fighting Group! During his interview with Al-Jazirah, he spoke eloquently in modern standard Arabic citing some Koranic verses and some sound Hadiths. He mentioned that they had an agreement with the rebels from within Libya about the H-hour to start the liberation of Tripoli having prepared a well planned operation to liberate Libya they nicknamed "Operation Mermaid Dawn." The H-hour on 20 Ramadan 1432, corresponding to 20 August 2011, was chosen as a good omen for its coincidence with the date of the conquest of Mecca on 20 Ramadan 8 Hegira, corresponding to 1 January 630.
C. The Appearance of Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj Angered the Seculars:
Of course before the appearance of Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj in the Al-Jazirah channel as an original commander who participated in the liberation of Libya, those plotting against Islam felt deep sadness and anguish when they saw the rebels praying, glorifying, and praising God while looting the weapons and military equipment of the Al-Qadhafi brigades! They quickly shouted, through loud speakers, the warning against the force of Islamic mujahidin. Al-Qadhafi used to frighten the West by speaking about Islamists and calling them with vulgar names. Al-Qadhafi and his son kept yelling: Al-Qa'ida is in Libya! They want to turn Libya into another Afghanistan! However, despite the fact that the Western circles did not take Al-Qadhafi seriously, it did not mean that the Western intelligence was asleep! Of course not, they plot day and night!
D. On 21 August 2011:
Abd-al-Rahman Shalqam, who occupied many positions within the AlQadhafi regime from an ambassador to a minister to a permanent representative at the United Nations, has finally defected from the Al-Qadhafi regime! The proof to that was what he said on Al-Jazirah channel when asked about the Tripoli Brigade Commander Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj. He spoke about him contemptuously. He down played the role of Abd-al-Hakim and denied that he was the commander of the Tripoli Brigade citing that he was no more than a soldier and after the liberation he will regain his job as a farmer! During the same interview, Anis al-Sharif, the commander of the Tripoli Martyrs Brigade, strongly denounced what Abd-al-Rahman Shalqam said and viewed the statement as exclusionary! Then, Anis confirmed that Abd-al-Hakim is the actual leader and commander of the revolutionaries' Tripoli Brigade and that the NTC in Benghazi is aware of that!
E. On 22 August 2011:
At about 20 minutes past two o'clock in the morning, during a phone call from Al-Jazirah channel to Justice Abd-al-Jalil, the NTC chairman, he commented on a previous phone call made to Al-Jazirah by Muhammad Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi and called to guarantee his safety after his house was surrounded by some rebels! Among Abd-al-Jalil's comments he said nervously that He was not honored to be the leader of these radical Islamic groups and that he intended to resign should the radical groups continue to operate! He repeated the same expression that he stated shortly after the death of Abd-al-Fattah Yunis!
F. On 22 August 2011:
The rebels reached the Green Square and changed its name to the Martyrs Square which happens to be the former name of the same place! Those rebels were led by Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj, who declared from the same place the glad tidings of victory and empowerment adding that they were still in the process of neutralizing some pockets of resistance where some remnants of the Al-Qadhafi regime were taking refuge along with Al-Qadhafi brigades and a fifth column from the revolutionary committees loyal to Al-Qadhafi.
G. On 23 August 2011:
The rebels entered the Bastille fortress, Bab al-Aziziyah Compound, the fortified fortress that the Al-Qadhafi media built around it many legends to frighten the Libyan Muslim people! Here are the rebels invading and conquering the Al-Aziziyah area, the castle of the mass murderer where he had taken refuge for the past 42 years! The rebels entered it praising and exclaiming God is Great! Shortly after, AlJazirah channel's correspondent Abd-al-Adhim Muhammad ran an interview with Shaykh Abd-al-Hakim Belhaj from within the fortress of AlAziziyah! On the same night the Al-Jazirah correspondent hosted another rebels' Islamic leader named Ahamd al-Sa'idi, the commander of the 17 February Battalion who was the first to enter the Al-Aziziyah Fortress! Al-Sa'idi declared that they found some families of the AlQadhafi brigades among them women and children that they did not kill or harm!
The Evidence on the Aforementioned Conclusions:
It is clear from the appearance and statements made by some Islamic leaders as commanders defeating the Al-Qadhafi brigades and participating in the liberation of Libya from the Al-Qadhafi regime and his mercenaries!
The seculars and NATO cronies could not stand such appearance and battlefield victory achieved by those Islamists! The indirect incitement emanating from some media outlets especially the AlArabiyah channel, which constantly repeated the question to the invitees about the whereabouts of the weapons in the hands of the rebels and the radical Islamic movements! It tried to downplay the entry and conquest of Tripoli by the rebels. However, it chose to shed more light on the escape of Muhammad Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi and on the news flash that Sayf al-Islam al-Qadhafi was not captured after the confirmation of his arrest by Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil!
On 22 August 2011, the Al-Jazirah channel's news anchor Muhammad Krishan, who is a nationalist secular, while on a telephone conversation with Muhammad Al-Qadhafi during his coverage of the entry by the rebels to Tripoli; called the mujahidin radical Islamists!
Thus, there it is, the rejection by those non-religious seculars, pretending to be part of this ummah, as they express deep anger towards the appearance of those Islamists as field commanders and
liberators boasting weapons, military equipment, and high morale! Because those non-religious and their ilk consider themselves guardians of the Islamic ummah, which has not reached the age of maturity yet, or so they pretend, they use their media weapons and their relationships with the NATO and the Americans to incite against the mujahidin wherever they exist!
Additionally, because the non-religious lobbies that are omnipresent in the Islamic world are incapable and bankrupt, they did not offer the ummah, during an entire century, a single project that could benefit the ummah and stop its dependence on the Western forces of arrogance! Here are some examples of the projects that are detrimental and divisive to the ummah: The project of Arab nationalism and the Nasiriyah choices [referring to late Egyptian President Jamal Abdel-Nasser] that were defeated by the Haganah bands leading to the loss of Palestine in 1948 and again in 1967. They added the Golan Heights and a demilitarized Sinai following a weak and humiliating peace agreement! Add to that the projects of the Ba'th Party and the teachings of comrade Michel Aflaq and the killings of the comrades in Iraq and Syria! Moreover, the division of Yemen and the massacres committed by the communist gangs and the red political parties! Plus their successive defeats in every war they entered until the war of 10 Ramadan [ 1393], corresponding to 10 October 1973, where they were shown victory at the beginning of the day thanks to shouting "God is Great!" only to lose it at the end of the day! Iraq and Palestine slipped between their fingers, let alone Afghanistan and the rest!
Because of the fear of the sympathy with the mujahidin by the greater portion of the ummah in Libya and elsewhere, the non-religious groups are only good at open inciting messages through the different media outlets. They also write secret reports as commissioned by some rulers and Western intelligence agencies. They also resort to the promotion of preemptive wars and the early termination of any Islamic project that emerges on the scene even timidly!
Second: What Would Become of the Libyan Mujahidin Once the War Comes to an End?
We had sincerely hoped for this: Before we talk about this doomed future and frightening scenario, I want to say: We are among the happiest people about the elimination of tyrants and their demise! We are the happiest people for the elimination of the regime of the atheist Al-Qadhafi and his brigades that spread mischief in the land!
However, we had hoped that this liberation and overthrow of the AlQadhafi regime and his brigades would happen at the hands of the Muslim Libyan people led by the Islamic mujahidin fighters without the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Security Council, or the European Union!
We had also hoped that this liberation of Libya from the Al-Qadhafi regime, with God's help, would happen at the hands of the mujahidin alone. However, not all that a man wishes for gets it.
Therefore, I pretend that this victory over the Al-Qadhafi regime will be spoiled by the help of the NATO and the rest of the Western countries that participated in the aerial military strikes! This is on top of the international sanctions imposed on the Al-Qadhafi regime and his pursuit by the International Criminal Court along with his sons and senior commanders!
Imaginary Argument Between the Rebels and the NATO:
This victory was realized thanks to the participation of two parties:
The First Party: In the battlefield, this libration was the work of the Libyan people spearheaded by the Islamic movements thanks to the experience gained by their leaders in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, and elsewhere.
The Second Party: The NATO and the European Union headed by the United States, France, the United Kingdom then Italy and Germany in addition to some Arab countries that played a distinct media and material role such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Thus, those two parties are partners in the victory!
Therefore, if the first party is to claim its right to govern Libya with Islamic Shari'ah and revoke all laws that contradict the teachings of Islam because without it the victory would have never come, they can claim that they entertained the war on their own and they are the ones who made sacrifices and lost some of their best men
whose blood irrigated the Libyan land! Hence, they deserve the command and the loot before everyone else as the land is their land and the country is theirs as not a single mercenary soldier or one belonging to the NATO or other organization has fought alongside them!
However, the second party headed by the NATO could respond saying: Had it not been for the legal and military cover we have provided for you, you could have never left Benghazi especially that Al-Qadhafi brigades were sufficiently equipped militarily to leave the earth of Benghazi level and bare! Moreover, had it not been for our colossal smart bombs that targeted the movements of the Al-Qadhafi brigades anywhere they moved, you could not have made a single move on the ground! Additionally, but for our successive air strikes on the assassin's fortress in his retreat in Bab al-Aziziyah, you could not have entered it!
Now, do you think that the NATO and the Western countries are charity organizations that spent huge amounts of money in a six-month span only for you to demand the application of Shari'ah law in Libya? Do you really want to fly high the flag of monotheism? You are truly delusional, as the lion share of the loot will be reserved to the NATO and the allies and the leftovers and bones will be disbursed among NTC that recognizes the [Western] democracy and its method of governance. Thus, if you join their alliance and accept their method, you will have a share in the loot!
Therefore, by examining this theoretical argument between both parties, we see that the future of the mujahidin who participated in the liberation of Libya from the tyranny of Al-Qadhafi and his brigades is expected to unfold as follows:
The First Scenario: The Repetition of the Tragic Scenario of the Mujahidin in Bosnia:
Who among us does not remember the Dayton Agreement of 1995 known as the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the years of 1992 and 1995? The accords were first signed by the parties involved in the agreement on 21 November 1995 at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base near the US city of Dayton. The participating delegates were led by both Slobodan Milosevic, the then president of Serbia who was later arrested and died in his cell in the prison of The Hague Tribunal in 2006, and by the president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman (died in 1999). Add to that
the participation by Alija Izetbegovic the then president of Bosnia and Herzegovina (died in 2003). This agreement led to the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two relatively equal parts: The federal Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb Republic. It has also led to the deployment of the international peacekeeping forces IFOR [NATO Implementation Force]. The United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany did also participate in that unfair and unjust agreement against the Bosnian Muslims.
Some articles of the accords called for disbanding the mujahidin brigades in Bosnia and letting them go.
However, thanks to the sympathy of the former Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic towards the mujahidin and their sacrifices in defense of the Bosnian Muslims, he asked the Western countries to permit the granting of the Bosnian citizenship to the married ones among them but how did they respond?
Did they fulfill their promise?
They actually revoked the citizenship of anyone who was granted one. They also enacted some laws that deprive them from such citizenship and they ran a campaign of terror against those mujahidin after they gave up their weapons.
The West did not accept for the mujahidin to live in peace among their Muslim brethren although they had no weapons and insisted on expelling them permanently from Bosnia. Those who remained got arrested and some of them were sent to Guantanamo! The European leaders at the time were shouting "Europe is a Christian club" and that they would not allow any Islamic entity even if it is a matter of national identity!
They observed toward those mujahidin, their families, and children neither pact nor honor. They felt no piety or mercy toward them, and that is how the tragedy of the mujahidin brigades in Bosnia was saddening and pitiful indeed! It was preceded by the tragedy of the non-Afghan mujahidin in Afghanistan who were subjected to pursuits, arrests, killings, and still are by different nations!
Nevertheless, the situation in Libya is different as the mujahidin are Libyans and did not originate from other Muslim or Arab states! However, because of the intentional campaigns of exclusion against the identity of the ummah and the elimination of any trace of Islamic faith from governance, any given Muslim, even a righteous Muslim, whose ideas rather flatter the regime; will be viewed as someone who is unwanted! He will be unwanted in his society, among his relatives, and in his very hometown!
Thus, how about a jihadist Muslim who enjoins what is just and forbids what is wrong, who believes that dying for the sake of championing the religion, adhering firmly to the holy Koran, and the Prophet's line of conduct and Hadith is actually to the way to safety! Therefore, such Muslim will be more alienated than any other! The enemies of the Shari'ah are governing and holding power and although they carry Islamic names, they are the actual enemies of such jihadist Muslim even when he lives in his own country where he was born and grew up. Truth was told by whoever said:
[Start of a poetic verse:]
"What more alienation than what we are witnessing, as now foreigners became our leaders!"
[End of the poetic verse.]
The Second Scenario: A Fierce Media War:
Starting a ferocious media war against some jihadist leaders and demanding their prosecution for the murder of Abd-al-Fattah Yunis. As time passes by, there will be other accusations added for crimes that occurred during the war to eliminate completely those leaders, keep them busy with the trials, and eventually send them to prisons. Then, there will be delight for their absence from the scene as if the jihadist Muslim is destined to prison and grave!
The Third Scenario: A Policy of Containment and Penetration:
It is the attempt of containing and penetrating the mujahidin commands using the policies of the carrot and the stick! By also replaying the media disc well practiced by the anti-Islam media, which classifies Islamists in different categories ranging from moderate to radical to terrorist etc.
Therefore, any mujahidin leader, who accepts to join the new political life, denounces the armed jihad, and accepts the democratic system led by the NTC seculars that is now recognized internationally; the doors will be open for him for public service positions and he will be known as the patriotic liberator.
That is what happened after the coup d'état by officers in July 1952. As soon as Jamal Abdel-Nasser seized power, he offered the Muslim Brotherhood some of the ministerial portfolios and allowed them to practice their call for faith. He then dissolved all the political parties that existed during the reign of King Faruq with the consent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, when they firmly insisted on taking over some of what is known as "sovereign ministries," AbdelNasser severely punished them and they did not gain at the end other than torture in prisons, penitentiaries, and prosecution by the revolution tribunals!
Thus, there it is: The policies of taming and domesticating the Islamic movements have already been tried within the Islamic world! Such was the case of the Pakistani Islamic Group led by Shaykh Abu-alA'la al-Mawdudi, which participated in the liberation and independence of Pakistan only to be rewarded by the new seculars with a death sentence against Al-Mawdudi that was later reduced to 17 years in prison! Therefore, the Pakistani Islamic Group started to wear away with time forcing it to seek coalition with some secular factions for the sake of obtaining some crumbs in the district governments! Take also the example of the Jordan brotherhood that revered and glorified the king: They were investigated thoroughly by the now deceased King Hussein before giving some ministerial positions. They did not really accomplish anything because he concentrated all the powers in his hands! That is why he used to manipulate them and replace them the way he replaced his clothes! He gave them the opportunity to run for local legislative positions and indeed they succeeded just like the deposed Mubarak treated them then he proceeded to dissolve the parliament as he pleases! They were closer to being false witnesses than being witnesses of righteousness and change! They were similar to a gladiator's arena in ancient Rome when the emperor used to entertain himself by watching the prisoners fight! The only difference is the fact that those prisoners used to fight forcefully
but the Islamists seeking legislative councils had a choice and entered voluntarily!
The Fourth Scenario: The Threat of Prosecution by Mr Ocampo:
Just in case the [mujahidin] leaderships refuse to join the new political life bound by the NTC conditions, whose leaders will be described in the future as the heroes of liberation and guardians of the revolution, those leaders will face persecution. They will see their reputation ruined before the people and the media with the International Criminal Court being instructed to indict some of the Islamic leaders that participated in the liberation of Libya for allegedly committing war crimes. They will also be accused of violating the Geneva Convention related to the treatment of prisoners of war and their names will be annexed to the most-wanted list of the defunct Al-Qadhafi regime. That was the case of some Islamic names from the Bosnian leadership that were arrested and brought to The Hague Tribunal and were added to the most wanted list of Serbian and Bosnian-Serb criminals! That was exactly what happened in the Kurdufan case where demands were made to arrest some names of the Sudanese Government led by Umar al-Bashir along with some opposition leaders! Thus, those who refuse the integration and refuse to lay down their arms the ICC is ready and waiting for them!
The Fifth Scenario: If Some Mujahidin Decide To Keep Their Weapons:
If some mujahidin leaders or other leaders refused to lay down their arms in the Libyan territory and were forced to wage guerrilla warfare, it is expected that the United States will employ its arsenal of lethal drones. Those drones are harvesting the souls of innocent people in Afghanistan and in Pakistan especially in the tribal regions of Waziristan and Balochistan. Of course, those planes will target some leaders to kill them and destroy the compounds where they take refuge. We shall not forget that the NATO planes are still flying over the Libyan airspace. We therefore ask God to grant us safety! "Mighty indeed were the plots which they made, but their plots were (well) within the sight of Allah, even though they were such as to shake the hills!" [Koranic verse, Ibrahim, 14:46]
We came to the conclusion of this saddening prediction about the unknown fate that awaits the mujahidin who participated in liberating Libya from the Al-Qadhafi regime and his mercenaries! The struggle between falsehood and truth is still continuing. Everything I mentioned about the fearful fate is merely a quick reading of a bitter reality lived by the Islamic ummah and its people who are expecting the Islamic Shari'ah to make a comeback and govern all aspects of life!
Thus, will the NATO and its leaders leave Libya for any Islamic project that will have the upper hand? The West led by the United States considers our countries mere easy loots!
Therefore, are the United States, the European Union, and their military wing the NATO participating in the war for the sake of the Libyan people and to protect those who lost their children, the widows, and the elderly?
Libya is a vast country and its population is small compared with its huge resources of oil and energy. The United States in parallel has an ideological project to convert Muslims into Christians and to hasten the appearance of the savior on top of its economic project! This is their morality and religion in occupying the entire world!
Additionally, despite the economic recession in the United States and the bankruptcy of many of its companies, it is still insisting on forcing a blockade around the Islamic world. The United States aims at severing the ties of the Islamic world with Africa and tightening the noose around any Islamic movement that resists foreign or local hegemony! Moreover, our countries are easy solutions in the event of the disintegration of the United States as a strong united country! The Anglo-Saxons are already planning for the future of their coming generations! They think that by occupying our lands, establishing bases in the middle of the desert, and controlling the seas and the oceans are opportunities that present themselves before the giant wakes up to leave the bottle! As such, preemptive strikes are necessary and no laxness should ever occur vis-à-vis any Islamic project even in the case of a call to revive the Islamic Caliphate and governance with Shari'ah law! That is why Bush Junior followed by Tony Blair used to say repeatedly that the Islamic movements want to relive the Islamic Caliphate from Indonesia to Spain and reintegrate them to Islam! Those leaders do not want us to think even of the return of Islam to govern the Islamic countries.
The United States, of course, wants to besiege the Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM], the Mujahidin Youth Movement [MYM] in Somalia, and the jihadist groups that are active in Mali, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Sahara Desert. They also want to establish some military bases to burry some nuclear wastes in that expansive desert and also to perform nuclear, military, and scientific tests with no one for witness!
In this regard, it would be great if that happens with an approval from the pawns loyal to the enemies of the ummah even if they are practicing prayers, fasting, and going on pilgrimage to Mecca.
Thus, the danger is indeed imminent and the situation needs to benefit from the lessons learned from the Afghan experience as the Taliban movement is independent and has done away with the Eastern or the Western alliance! Taliban are insisting on not giving up on the Islamic Shari'ah as the only law that has no substitute for managing the affairs of the Afghan people and the entire Islamic ummah!
We must not also forget the role played by the Islamic State of Iraq [ISI] as a jihadist entity that sculpts the rocks and wages wars inside and outside Iraq! However, it is still standing and firm in its jihad and wreaking havoc on the occupiers and their agents despite the media blackout! The ISI deserves to be studied to understand the elements that ensure its survival despite the fact that the entire world is united against it!
Someone may make the argument that every county has its private circumstances and that the characters of people may be similar or may differ! Yes, that is true but what is moving our Islamic ummah despite the differences in character between its components is Islam which brought them together in one single melting pot!
In any event, this is nothing but a warning shout, an attempt to understand the reality, and a call to participate in finding solutions to get out of these repetitive crises! Muslims are being surrounded by an external enemy that has no mercy and by an internal enemy that is more dangerous and criminal against the weak, lost, and perplexed people who are otherwise devoted to Islam!
Finally, is it an inevitable fate that the mujahidin make history then others appear to attribute it to themselves? Is it true that the revolutions are the works of noble people and the lowly ones reap the fruits? One pitiful and anguished person is wondering about what the mujahidin are supposed to do once the war comes to an end? I am afraid that the best people will be offered as sacrifices at the doorsteps of the NATO and the non-religious Libyans.
Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies,
24 Ramadan 1432,
24 August 2011.
[A link to the Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies is posted here.]
[To view the vernacular, click here.]
[Description of Source: Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies in Arabic -- Official website of the Al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies, headed by Hani al-Siba'i, a London-based Islamic scholar and jihadist commentator once affiliated with Egyptian Islamic Jihad; website hosts articles and sermons by Al-Siba'i and other commentators and scholars; URL: www.almaqreze.net]
French Commentary: AQIM Gives Signs of Growing, Spreading
EUP20110901029015 Paris sahel-intelligence.com in French 29 Aug 11
[Commentary by Samuel Benshimon: "AQIM's Transformation and the Challenge of Secular Sahel"]
In less than three weeks, Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has broad itself back to the international community's attention in spectacular fashion, blowing hot and cold. On the cold side, there is the painful reminder of the four Areva hostages in Niger, who "are apparently doing well," according to negotiators that were able to contact the AQIM kidnappers a while ago. Another worrying factor is the mysterious death of Tuareg chief Brahim Ag Bahanga, who granted an interview to an Algerian daily a few hours before his death, officially in an "accident," as he was patrolling the desert in search of weapons smuggled out of Libya. Last, on the hot "hot" side, by successfully perpetrating a major attack on Cherchell military base in Algeria, in which 18 people died, AQIM has now demonstrated its resurgence, its ability to act beyond its position as a local Al-Qa'ida franchise, and to emancipate itself from the tutelage that it chose when it relinquished its up Algerian "coloration" as GSPC [Salafist Group for Call and Combat]. In another disturbing development, the recent attack, for which responsibility has been claimed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, raises fears of the establishment of channels of communication between AQIM and Nigeria's extremist groups, based on a sharing of expertise and techniques and on a pooling of resources and safe havens. Both for the region as a whole and for Western countries with interests in the area, this is probably the worst possible news, because an alliance between the groups active in the Sahel and those based further south signifies a significant extension of the areas of instability. We must add to this the fate of the pro-Al-Qadhafi mercenaries who are expected to return soon to their areas of origin, having received cash, heavy weapons, and telecommunications equipment, some of which they will certainly succeed in bringing home. For the countries of the region, and particularly Niger and Mali, these mercenaries' return constitutes an additional challenge to be met by armies possessing very limited resources and whose mobility is limited by a hostile environment. It has become a pressing necessity to sound the alarm, to tell the world that part of its future is at present being played out in the Sahel and that the time has come to place major resources in the area in order to put an end to terrorism, lest it become increasingly "verticalized," reaching South Africa via branches inclined toward looting and gradually spreading to Europe via the more "sophisticated" factions. For instance, we cannot rule out the possibility of a major rallying together of the minor terrorist groups active in the Sahel, which would come together under the AQIM "trademark" in order to be able to strengthen their involvement in other illegal activities --
racketeering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and so forth. the world ready for that?
[Description of Source: Paris Sahel-Intelligence.com -- Internet newsletter; URL: http://sahel-intelligence.com]
Algerian writer says Al-Qa'idah seeking new allies to reactivate terrorism
GMP20110902950033 Algiers Echourouk El-Youmi Online in Arabic 29 Aug 11
Text of report by privately-owned Algerian newspaper Echourouk El Youmi website
Text of report by Djemal Laalami entitled "After arms and drugsmuggling gangs, 'rebels' are up for auction - Al-Qa'idah seeks new 'allies' to reactivate terrorism" published on Echourouk website in Arabic 29 Aug 11
By adopting the Cherchal atrocity and turning it into an Id gift and justifying it as a reaction to the Algerian stance vis-a-vis the Libyan crisis, the Salafi Group for Call and Combat or the so-called Al-Qa'idah Organization in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb would have again piggybacked "popular revolutions" in many Arab countries seeking "legitimacy" to whitewash its crimes and atrocities against our people.
After Iraq, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt, Al-Qa'idah has been attempting to get close to the rebels in Libya, particularly since among them there are some old elements who were active in the so-called the Libyan Combat Group. The Salafi Group [for Call and Combat] has justified the suicide bombing of the Military Academy in Cherchal by what it called "revenge" against the "conspiratorial" Algerian stance vis-a-vis the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Libya.
Observers believe that Al-Qa'idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb was desperately trying to achieve a "double" media reverberation by spreading terror among peaceful people and perpetrating terrorist crimes which are then presented as a gift to "revolutionaries", seeking their amity and "alliance" in the future.
Experts stressed that the Salafi Group's aim behind the courting was to gain an ally in the Sahel region which with the possibility of gaining power after the fall of Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's regime on its agenda.
Al-Qa'idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb has repeatedly attempted to exploit events when it piggybacked the wave of popular protests in Algeria in the past in an attempt to draw the sympathy and solidarity of angry youths well aware of the difference between protest and belonging or loyalty to a terrorist organization, which led to losing even its closest allies at home and abroad.
According to observers, after the developments in Libya, Al-Qa'idah is now seeking the approval of the rebels, particularly when they assume power; the reason why they presented the Cherchal atrocity as a gift to those rebels, hoping they would gain their approval, form an alliance with them and secure their permission to transport and smuggle arms and ammunition to be used to kill Algerians in the name of jihad.
According to observers, the Salafi Group has been trying to join AlQa'idah proper, which had previously declared its support for the Libyan rebels. Al-Qa'idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb has also been exploiting the death of Usamah Bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri's sole control of organizational affairs in order to gain affiliation with Al-Qa'idah and justify the murder and blood-shedding under the guise of what it terms as "combating the Crusaders", knowing that BinLaden did not ever mention the Salafi Group or its leaders while Al-
Zawahiri considered it as a "thorn in the throat of the Crusaders" in North Africa.
While the noose around the neck of the terrorist organization has been tightened by the joint forces of the army and security services, the remaining terrorists endeavour to deceive public opinion with isolated and solitary attacks and try to exaggerate them by spreading the news and portraying the event in a frightening way through "jihadist websites" on the internet.
It seems that fears about the military arms and ammunition smuggled out of Libyan depots and stores have become more justified in the light of attempts by Al-Qa'idah to approach the rebels who have not explain so far precisely and directly their stance vis-a-vis terrorist organizations, particularly Al-Qa'idah Organization in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb which has been increasingly extending its activities towards the Greater Sahel and Sahara.
Observers believe that the terrorist organization is planning to strike against Algeria's security and stability by inciting Libyan rebels against it [Algeria], forge an alliance and try to strike a deal or barter with them that would provide it with a breather and time to look for a relief exit across the gateway of Libya which has lost control over the movement of armed people, smugglers and terrorists as a result of six months of fighting and NATO bombing. Consequently, the regular security services have disintegrated, particularly since Al-Qa'idah had interfered in Libyan affairs and had called, through Al-Zawahiri, for fighting Al-Qadhafi's battalions and NATO forces.
Security experts say that Al-Qa'idah Organization in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb "was fishing in murky waters by trying to exploit the tension between Algeria and the Transitional Council with a view to securing a new supplier and financier who might benefit from sponsoring terrorism which Algerians had fought with their lives and possessions.
[Description of Source: Algiers Echourouk El-Youmi Online in Arabic -Website of one of the most popular privately owned newspapers, with a
claimed distribution of 600,000; apparently has close ties with the government, including the security services; uses tabloid language to report on national developments with an emphasis on the Arab and Islamic character of Algerian society; also available in French and English; URL: http://www.echoroukonline.com]
Touareg battalion abandons Al-Qadhafi, retreats into Mali Mauritanian report
AFP20110902950040 Nouakchott Sahara Media in Arabic 1305 GMT 02 Sep 11
Text of report by Mauritanian Sahara Media electronic newspaper website on 2 September
Malian sources have said that the commando battalion, which includes the best of Touareg fighters, had concluded a deal with the Libyan National Transitional Council [NTC] to give up fighting alongside AlQadhafi and to withdraw with their equipment out of Libya.
Malian security sources have told 'Sahara Media' that about 100 vehicles loaded with weapons had entered the Malian territories. Analysts pointed out that the council's success in neutralising the Touaregs' weapons would deprive Col Al-Qadhafi of elite fighters who gave him a combative advantage for which he desperately needed and which would speed up his loss and probably his arrest.
It is feared that the abundance of weapons in the hands of the fighters in the desert may lead to a new revival of the weapons market and consequently delivering them to the armed groups, including AlQa'idah in [Land] of the Islamic Maghreb [AQLIM] which was waging an armed war against the governments of the region.
The Al-Qa'idah in the Malian desert is in possession of several millions of euros, earned from ransoms to release detained Western hostages, earmarked for buying weapons.
[Description of Source: Nouakchott Sahara Media in Arabic -- Private audiovisual media company that provides credible, non-partisan reporting with slight Islamist leanings; founded in 1997, it claims to be renowned "for self-sacrifice, impartiality, editorial independence and all the values cherished by journalism"; in Arabic and English; URL: http://www.saharamedias.net/smedia]
Libya’s new civilian leaders rein in military commanders, Islamist influence By Simon Denyer, Published: September 3
TRIPOLI — Libya’s new civilian leaders put all military commanders in the capital under their control Saturday, a move designed to rein in Islamist influence and paper over internal tensions.
Libya’s rebellion has been plagued from its outset by reports that its civilian leaders had little control over military commanders and by talk of rivalry among commanders. Western officials acknowledge that there are also concerns about the influence of Islamists who fought against Soviet rule in Afghanistan in the 1980s and whose experience gave them an important role in the armed uprising against Moammar Gaddafi.
On Saturday, the transitional governing council moved to quell that talk by bringing the military commanders in Tripoli under one
umbrella, creating a Supreme Security Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni.
Meanwhile, officials said there were unconfirmed reports that Gaddafi’s forces had retreated from the city of Bani Walid, 100 miles southeast of Tripoli, where three of his sons were believed to have taken refuge.
Tripoli military commander Abdulhakim Belhadj said that Gaddafi’s forces had vanished from checkpoints they were manning outside Bani Walid and that the city was reported to be 90 percent under the control of rebel sympathizers.
The Associated Press reported late Saturday that thousands of rebel fighters were closing in on the town from three sides. “If they don’t raise the rebel flag tomorrow, we will enter with force,” Abdel-Razak al-Nathori, a rebel brigade commander, told the AP.
Rebel commanders said they believe that the three Gaddafi sons had escaped and headed to the south across the Sahara, possibly toward the city of Sabha. A fourth son, military commander Khamis Gaddafi, was killed in an ambush on the road to Bani Walid a week ago, they said. Gaddafi’s whereabouts remained unknown.
In Tripoli, the new 21-member security committee includes representatives of many of the fighters who helped liberate Tripoli, including some from Misurata and the Nafusa Mountains, as well as representatives from the defense and interior ministries.
Tarhouni said the committee would be responsible for security in the capital until a police force was up and running.
But Mohammed Benrasali, a senior official in the Libya Stabilization Committee and a member of the Misurata city council, said the move was largely designed to rein in Belhadj, whose past as a fighter in Afghanistan was seen as something of a public relations problem for a government seeking substantial Western backing.
Belhadj is a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which engaged in an insurgency against Gaddafi in the 1990s. Belhadj was appointed head of the Tripoli Military Committee earlier in the week, but he irritated many people by appearing to claim too much credit for the city’s liberation.
”Mr. Belhadj is getting too big for his shoes,” Benrasali said. “We needed someone to rein him in.”
Tarhouni, a former economics lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle, is already the rebel council’s finance and oil minister, and is considered a better person to represent the council in the West. Officials said they had to persuade him to take on another role.
Other tensions simmered within the rebel ranks. In particular, the people of Misurata, whose liberation in April played a huge role in showing that Gaddafi’s army could be defeated, have complained that they are being overlooked in the competition for plum jobs.
Last week, hundreds of people demonstrated in Misurata about the influence of former members of the Gaddafi government in the new administration, including former ambassador to the United Nations Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham.
“We think Mr. Shalgham should be put in the freezer for now until he clears himself,” Benrasali said.
The leaders of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril, are expected to arrive in Tripoli next week and to announce soon an interim government to lead the country until the election in eight months’ time of an assembly to write a new constitution.
It will be an important test of the new government’s inclusiveness. Officials say that they are making progress every day in sorting out the problems left by 42 years of autocratic rule and that tensions within their ranks should not be overplayed.
In the streets of Tripoli, people say they are waiting patiently for the leaders’ arrival, but some warn that their new leaders need to show that they can handle the capital’s many problems, including a chronic shortage of water and gasoline.
“You can’t run a country by making telephone calls,” said Amjid Msalati, 31, a dentist. “People are happy now, but if they don’t solve the problems of food, water and gas, in a week or two, there will be tension.”
Libyan Islamist says NTC executive committee should resign
Sunday, 04 September 2011
By Emma Farge Reuters Benghazi
A Libyan Islamist military commander who helped defend Benghazi against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces has called on the interim cabinet to resign because they are “remnants of the old regime”.
In an early sign of divisions among the victors in Libya’s six-month civil war, Ismail al-Salabi also took a swipe at secular groups he said were trying to give Islamists a bad name and create political strife that would only benefit Qaddafi.
Salabi leads the February 17 brigade, which many Libyans credit with the successful last-ditch defence of Benghazi, where the uprising began on that date. Only later did NATO air power tip the balance in favor of the largely untrained rebel forces.
“The role of the executive committee is no longer required because they are remnants of the old regime. They should all resign, starting from the head of the pyramid all the way down,” Salabi told Reuters in the eastern city.
He was referring to the National Transitional Council’s de facto cabinet, which is headed by Mahmoud Jibril, who once headed Libya’s state economic think-tank under Qaddafi.
The 40-member NTC is a disparate mix of former officials in the Qaddafi administration, businessmen, academics, lawyers and exiles.
Salabi commands at least 3,000 fighters and reports to the interim interior ministry in Tripoli, according to an NTC spokesman. He accompanied NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil to a NATO meeting in Doha last month and said he fully supports him.
Abdel Jalil resigned as Qaddafi’s justice minister after violence was used against the protests that erupted on Feb. 17.
Salabi once fought in Afghanistan but denies any links to Islamist groups outside Libya, such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. After the anti-Qaddafi revolt, his forces received arms from the Gulf Arab state of Qatar.
Without naming anyone, Salabi criticized those he said were trying to cast Libyan Islamist leaders as extremists.
“There are secularists who have their own private agenda and would like to portray us as extremist to alienate us from the international community and cause the division that will only serve the tyrant,” he said, referring to Qaddafi.
“Sometimes you wonder and ask, who are they serving?”
Salabi said he planned to send a memo to the NTC and its foreign allies to warn them to ensure that Libyan assets abroad, frozen to
punish Qaddafi and now being released to the NTC, do not come back under control of the same officials who once handled them for Qaddafi.
“Lately, the (NTC) executive committee has done nothing but talk about unfreezing the assets,” he said.
“These were in the names of individuals in the old regime, so if you unfreeze the assets you unfreeze them in their favor. They belong to the Libyan people.”
World powers agreed in Paris last week to unfreeze $15 billion in Libyan assets once controlled by Qaddafi or his aides. Libya’s total foreign assets are estimated at some $170 billion.
The influx of money will test the capacity and intentions of Libya’s new leaders, who are trying to restore order and public services in an oil-rich country with a glut of guns and forge a new brand of democratic politics after 42 years of one-man rule.
“We are asking the international community and NTC to be very, very careful,” said Salabi, a former businessman who spent time in jail in the Qaddafi era.
A senior NTC member said the unfrozen funds would be spent on education, security and medical care for landmine victims.
Salabi said his fighters, hardened by six months of combat with Qaddafi’s forces, would join any battle for the coastal city of Sirte, voicing skepticism that it would surrender.
But he said the Feb. 17 brigade would respect deadlines set by the NTC, which has given more time for talks on a peaceful handover of the city that sits on an east-west coastal highway.
“With our in-depth knowledge of the hierarchy of the commanders of the forces at Sirte, we feel that unfortunately force will be the only
means,” he said. “I do not believe that the tribal elders will carry weight with that leadership.”
Salabi said capturing southern towns still held by Qaddafi forces in Libya’s vast desert hinterland and securing the borders with Chad and Niger were formidable tasks.
“We still have Sabha and then Jufra,” he said of areas in the Sahara still not under the control of the new authorities.
“We have to then comb this massive area between Sirte, Sabha and Jufra. That will be very difficult, as it’s quite extensive.”
Libya Rebels Council Cautious on Tripoli By SAM DAGHER
BENGHAZI, Libya—The Libyan rebels' governing body said on Saturday it would stay in this eastern stronghold and only partially relocate to Tripoli as long as much of the country's interior and south remained in Col. Moammar Gadhafi's grip, warning that the longtime leader and his sons still posed a serious threat even for the recently gained capital.
Meanwhile, Libya's national soccer team made history on Saturday flying from Benghazi to Cairo to face Mozambique in the qualifiers of the African Nations Cup under the banner of the rebel flag.
"Danger should be expected as long as Moammar Gadhafi remains inside Libya," the president of the rebel's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told reporters here a day after his return from Paris where the French government hosted a major international conference on Libya.
"His sons are still issuing threats day after day and as such there's an expected danger and caution is in place," added Mr. Abdul Jalil, referring to a call by Col. Gadhafi's son Seif el-Islam this week for loyalists to wage an insurgency against the rebels.
Underscoring the confusion and turf battles that have plagued the rebel leadership from the start, Mr. Abdul Jalil reversed announcements made by other senior rebel political and military leaders this week calling on fighters from outside Tripoli who took part in the assault on the capital two weeks ago to return home.
"There is no decision or even intention by the National Council to collect weapons from the rebels in Tripoli or to move them out of the city," said Mr. Abdul Jalil.
On Wednesday, Mahmoud Jibril, head of the NTC's executive committee which is equivalent to the rebels' cabinet, called on rebels from outside Tripoli to leave the city, citing several instances of looting allegedly committed by fighters from the nearby Western Mountain area.
On Friday. the head of the rebels' military council in Tripoli, AbdelHakim Belhajj, made the same appeal.
Asked about these announcements, Mr. Abdul Jalil said the intention was only to move rebels to Tripoli's periphery where they could pursue the regime's remnants.
Mr. Abdul Jalil said rebels had no control over the country's southern borders in addition to several tribal areas in the interior and south like Col. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and the regions of Jufra and Sebha.
Last week, the NTC had given regime loyalists amassed in Sirte until Saturday to surrender or face a sweeping military assault but later extended the deadline for another week.
Now Sirte and all other areas still under the regime's control had until Sep. 10 to join the rebel authority, according to Mr. Abdul Jalil.
He said tribal elders in these areas have been attempting over the past two weeks to mediate a peaceful resolution of the standoff with the NTC's blessing but that the NTC itself was not involved in direct negotiations with the regime.
Rebel leaders have speculated that several of Col. Gadhafi's sons and even the former strongman himself have sought refuge in these traditional bastions of support.
"We are now in a position of strength and can enter any city and dispatch our forces anywhere," said Mr. Abdul Jalil, but he noted that the NTC was willing to give these areas a chance because it was mindful that military confrontation there would spawn into tribal warfare.
He said the NTC would fully move to Tripoli and that the political transition process, including the formation of an interim government, would only be launched after the "liberation" of these areas.
Taking a break from war and politics, Libyans were glued to their television sets on Saturday to watch their national soccer team play under a banner not used since the 1969 coup that ousted the monarchy and ushered Col. Gadhafi into power and turned Libya into a Great Jamahiriya, or rule of the masses.
"The slogans of freedom have become reality and not just ink on paper," said Mohammed Barakat, a Libyan sports commentator, as players draped in the pre-1969 flag stood solemnly for the monarchy-era national anthem before kickoff.
The match ended with a 1-0 Libya win triggering an outpouring of joy in Benghazi including celebratory gunfire.
"Dance, sing, your team achieves victory today," said an emotional Mr. Barakat borrowing from a speech by Col. Gadhafi in February in which he urged his supporters to do the same in the face of the rebel uprising.
Libyan Rebel Military Commander Denies Connection to Madrid Train Bombings
EUP20110906178007 Madrid ABC.es in Spanish 05 Sep 11
[Report on telephone interview with Abdel Hakim Belhadj, rebel military commander of Tripoli, by Mikel Ayestaran in Tripoli; date not given: "Belhadj Denies any Connection to Madrid Train Bombings on 11 March 2004"]
"Spanish intelligence officials came to interrogate me in Abu Salim prison (a maximum-security prison in Tripoli) and it became quite clear that I had no hand in the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004." Abdel Hakim Belhadj, former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and current commander of the rebel forces in Tripoli, did not hesitate to take a break from the hunt for Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, which he is currently leading, to answer again the questions posed by ABC and clarify some pieces of information linking him to the biggest terrorist attack in Spain's history.
A report by the Central Unit for External Information (UCIE), to which El Confidencial Digital has had access, says that Belhadj had telephone contact with Serhane bin Abdelmajid Fakhet, alias "The Tunisian," who led the Islamist cell that carried out the Madrid train bombings. According to documents handed over to judge Juan del Olmo in June 2005, "the Tunisian" made two phone calls to cell phone numbers belonging to Belhadj, who is known in Islamist circles as Abu Abdullah Assadaq, when the latter was allegedly living in China between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.
In the telephone interview held late at night, the former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group did not want to answer specific questions as to whether he had really lived in China or had any contact with "The Tunisian," because he considered that "this issue had been clarified during the visit by the Spanish agents." In his view, "the report was written before the interrogation took place." Belhadj thinks that he is being "the victim of a media smear campaign conducted by the Spanish, British, US, French, and Italian intelligence services. All of them have had ties to the repressive regime of Al-Qadhafi and now want to get rid of those who witnessed their wrongdoings," Belhadj's secretary pointed out. "If the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is a terrorist organization, then all those who are taking part in the revolution are terrorists, because they share the same goal: to put an end to the dictatorship," explained the person who accompanies Belhadj everywhere.
In an exclusive interview with ABC to deny his ties to Al-Qa'ida, Belhadj discussed his past and his participation in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union and complained about his arrest in Malaysia by the CIA and his subsequent extradition to Libya in 2004, after having spent a short time in Thailand, "where I was tortured." At no time did he mention having been in China after leaving Afghanistan, or having traveled to Hong Kong, where, according to the Spanish police report, he allegedly received phone calls from the ringleader of the Madrid train bombings shortly before the attacks. According to the UCIE report, Belhadj also called phone numbers in Spain. "He made four phone calls on 3 January 2004. He called a cell phone number (629130072) belonging to Mohd Othman, a Jordanian associate of The Tunisian," read the report by El Confidencial Digital.
During his first interview with ABC, Belhadj, who said that he had not joined Al-Qa'ida because he did not share its "ideology," argued that he had gone back to Libya from Malaysia rather than from China, as the Spanish police report maintains.
The documents that unveiled the relationship between the CIA and the Libyan regime, which Human Rights Watch disclosed on Saturday [ 3 September], confirm his version of events and two files dated March 2004 say that US secret agents urged Tripoli to "send two men" in order to escort the detainee during the flight from Kuala Lumpur.
[Description of Source: Madrid ABC.es in Spanish -- Website of ABC, center-right national daily; URL: http://www.abc.es]
Islamists emerge in force in new Libya By Leila Fadel, Published: September 13 | Updated: Wednesday, September 14, 12:28 PM
TRIPOLI, Libya — For decades, bearded men in Libya were afraid to walk in the streets or go to the mosque, worried that to be seen as an Islamist would land them in prison, or worse.
As Libya’s leader, Moammar Gaddafi regarded Islamists as the greatest threat to his authority, and he ordered thousands of them detained, tortured and, in some cases, killed. The lucky ones fled the country in droves. But with Gaddafi now in hiding, Islamists are vying to have a say in a new Libya, which they say should have a system based on Islamic law.
Although it went largely unnoticed during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last month, Islamists were at the heart of the fight, many as rebel commanders. Now some are clashing with secularists within the rebels’ Transitional National Council, prompting worries among some liberals that the Islamists — who still command the bulk of fighters and weapons — could use their strength to assert an even more dominant role.
“We don’t want any vacuums or for those Islamists to steal the revolution,” said a senior rebel leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal rifts.
Among the Islamists in the rebel ranks, a small fraction were militants who had previously waged war abroad. Some had fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya and the Balkans under a religious banner; some had ended up in the arms of more extreme groups such as al-Qaeda. The city of Derna, a key bastion of resistance against Gaddafi in eastern Libya, was home to dozens of Libyan fighters who fought in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In the fight against Gaddafi’s troops, the Islamist militants played an important role among the rebels’ ragtag forces because of their experience in battles overseas. With a place in the new Libya, most have said that their days as militants are over. The largest of the organizations, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, has rebranded itself as the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change.
Some Islamists are blunt in expressing resentment about fellow rebels.
“Secularists don’t like Islamists,” said Ismail Sallabi, an influential cleric who is among nine leaders commanding rebel forces in eastern Libya. Before the revolution, he said, he had never held a weapon. “They want to use Islamists in the fighting stage and then take control.”
“I’m proud to be an Islamist, and this is a historic chance for the West to understand Islamists up close,” Sallabi said.
Seeking a compromise
Libya is a conservative Muslim nation, and its future government will probably reflect that; the governments of Egypt and Iraq are among Arab states that base their governance on Islamic law. Although Gaddafi’s government tolerated little in the way of activism, Libya’s Islamist groups appear to have emerged from his reign as the bestorganized among political groups, and secularists among the country’s new leaders appear determined not to alienate them.
In an early step intended to rein in Islamists, Libya’s new leaders have created a Supreme Security Committee, which has put the most powerful rebel commander, former militant Abdulhakim Bel-hadj, under civilian control. But in an interview, Ali Tarhouni, a liberal who heads the committee, also sounded a conciliatory note.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is “not al-Qaeda. They don’t have any intention of fighting the West or Europe. This is a group that basically carried arms to topple Gaddafi’s regime,” Tarhouni said. “Their brand of thinking is not geared towards the instability of the rest of the world.”
Even before Gaddafi’s ouster, Islamists and secularists on the Transitional National Council clashed this summer on whether Islamic law should be the primary source for legislation. Initially, secularists prevailed, winning approval of a provision that established Islamic law as one guidepost for a future Libya, but not the dominant one.
Days later, however, Islamists led by the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of secularists’ absence from the eastern city of Benghazi to win passage of a revised provision that made Islamic law the principal law of the land, said a council member involved in the process. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the fraught subject.
One prominent Islamist, Abdul Razag el-Aradi, a nationalist who is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, described that approach as a compromise intended to appease more conservative Islamists while stopping well short of an approach that would transform Libya into an Islamic republic.
“There are two kinds of people we in Libya will completely reject: extremist Islamists and extremist secularists,” Aradi said.
Criticism of rebel council
But some Islamist commanders are pushing for further change. They have expressed anger about the role of the civilian government, which includes many who spent the past few months traveling abroad while fighters — a mix of young and old, secularists and Islamists — were entrenched in a brutal battle with Gaddafi’s forces.
In Benghazi, Sallabi, the cleric who is part of the rebel command, has called for the resignation of the council, saying that its efforts to unfreeze assets held in Western countries produced little in the way of money for the fighters.
Sallabi spent years in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison, where he was tortured, he said, because he and his family members are Islamists. He never wants to be targeted for his beard and his beliefs again, he said. His brother, Ali Sallabi, is emerging as an important figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, one who has contributed to the constitutional charter and is seen as a spiritual leader for some of the fighters. Ali Sallabi has also been sharply critical of Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril’s leadership, complaining that he has embraced too secular an agenda and is too often out of the country.
“We want this to be a good government that comes from Islam, that respects human rights and personal freedoms,” Ismail Sallabi said in an interview in Benghazi last week. “Doctor Ali will do his best to give Libya to trusted hands,” he said, referring to his brother.
Military commanders estimate that 50 to 70 percent of the rebel fighters have Islamist roots and say that Islamist leaders will need to be given a prominent role in the next government. Some say the estimate is exaggerated. Many rebel fighters interviewed said Islamists may have taken leadership roles but are in the minority. Those rebels vowed to turn on the Islamists if they seize control.
Among the Islamist fighters was Abdul Basset Haroun al-Shahaidi, who lived in exile for 21 years because of his family’s opposition to
Gaddafi. He has traveled abroad to seek money for security training in Libya, and he says Western officials have quizzed him about the rise of Islamists within the new Libya.
“The Islamic way is not something dangerous or wrong. The West hears ‘Islamic law’ and they think we want to lock our women in boxes,” Shahaidi said. “The Islamic groups want a democratic country, and they want to go to the mosque without being arrested. They’re looking for freedom like everyone else.”
Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions for Libya By ROD NORDLAND and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
TRIPOLI, Libya — In the emerging post-Qaddafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising.
The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with Al Qaeda.
The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.
But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic
pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even Al Qaeda.
Islamist militias in Libya receive weapons and financing directly from foreign benefactors like Qatar; a Muslim Brotherhood figure, Abel alRajazk Abu Hajar, leads the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council, where Islamists are reportedly in the majority; in eastern Libya, there has been no resolution of the assassination in July of the leader of the rebel military, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, suspected by some to be the work of Islamists.
Mr. Belhaj has become so much an insider lately that he is seeking to unseat Mahmoud Jibril, the American-trained economist who is the nominal prime minister of the interim government, after Mr. Jibril obliquely criticized the Islamists.
For an uprising that presented a liberal, Westernized face to the world, the growing sway of Islamists — activists with fundamentalist Islamic views, who want a society governed by Islamic principles — is being followed closely by the United States and its NATO allies.
“I think it’s something that everybody is watching,” said Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, visiting here on Wednesday. “First of all the Libyan people themselves are talking about this.” The highest-ranking American official to visit Libya since Colonel Qaddafi’s fall, Mr. Feltman was optimistic that Libya would take a moderate path.
“Based on our discussions with Libyans so far,” he said, “we aren’t concerned that one group is going to be able to dominate the aftermath of what has been a shared struggle by the Libyan people.”
Mr. Sallabi, in an interview, made it clear that he and his followers wanted to build a political party based on Islamic principles that would come to power through democratic elections. But if the party failed to attract widespread support, he said, so be it.
“It is the people’s revolution, and all the people are Muslims, Islamists,” Mr. Sallabi said. Secularists “are our brothers and they are Libyans.”
“They have the right to offer their proposals and programs,” he said, “and if the Libyan people choose them I have no problem. We believe in democracy and the peaceful exchange of power.”
Many Libyans say they are not worried. “The Islamists are organized so they seem more influential than their real weight,” said Usama Endar, a management consultant who was among the wealthy Tripolitans who helped finance the revolution. “They don’t have wide support, and when the dust settles, only those with large-scale appeal, without the tunnel vision of the Islamists, will win.”
Yet an anti-Islamist, anti-Sallabi rally in Martyrs’ Square on Wednesday drew only a few dozen demonstrators.
Many, like Aref Nayed, coordinator of the Transitional National Council’s stabilization team and a prominent religious scholar, say that the revolution had proved that Libyans would not accept anything but a democratic society, and that the Islamists would have to adapt to that.
“There will be attempts by people to take over, but none of them will succeed because the young people will go out on the streets and bring them down,” Mr. Nayed said.
Some are concerned that the Islamists are already wielding too much power, particularly in relation to their support in Libyan society, where most people, while devout, practice a moderate form of Islam in which individual liberties are respected.
Mr. Sallabi dismissed those fears, saying Islamists would not impose their traditionalist views on others. “If people choose a woman to lead, as president, we have no problem with that. Women can dress the way they like; they are free.”
Adel al-Hadi al-Mishrogi, a prominent businessman who began raising money for the anti-Qaddafi insurgents early in the revolution, is not convinced by the Islamists’ declarations of fealty to democratic
principles. He pointed to a well-organized Islamist umbrella group, Etilaf, which he said had pushed aside more secular groupings.
“Most Libyans are not strongly Islamic, but the Islamists are strongly organized, and that’s the problem,” Mr. Mishrogi said. “Our meetings go on for hours without decisions. Their meetings are disciplined and right to the point. They’re not very popular, but they’re organized.”
He complains that Etilaf and Mr. Sallabi are the ones who are really running things in Libya now. Others say the picture is much more diverse and chaotic than Mr. Mishrogi suggests, although it is true that Etilaf, with no fixed address and still apparently operating underground, continues to issue decrees of all sorts as if it were some sort of revolutionary guide.
“All offices here must make sure that they are headed by an acceptable person within seven days of this notice,” read a leaflet pasted to the doors of offices throughout Tripoli Central Hospital, dated Sept. 3 and signed, simply, Etilaf.
“They are behind everything,” Mr. Mishrogi said.
Youssef M. Sherif, a prominent Libyan writer and intellectual, said: “Every day the Islamists grow stronger. When there is a parliament, the Islamists will get the majority.”
“Abdel Hakim Belhaj is in effect the governor of Tripoli just because he was elected by an Islamist militia,” Mr. Sherif said. Echoing debates in Egypt, Mr. Sherif argued for a longer transition to elections than the planned eight months, to give liberals a better chance to organize.
The growing influence of the Islamists is reflected in their increased willingness to play a political role. Until recently the Islamists have kept a low profile, and even many secular Libyan officials have expressed a reluctance to criticize them, saying they should focus instead on the common enemy while Colonel Qaddafi remains on the loose.
That seems to be changing. After the interim government’s acting prime minister, Mr. Jibril, appeared recently in Tripoli and indirectly criticized politicking by the Islamists as premature with a war still in progress, Mr. Belhaj and Mr. Sallabi began agitating for his replacement.
“Jibril will be gone soon,” one aide to Mr. Belhaj said.
And Mr. Sallabi said that Mr. Jibril, along with the American-educated finance and oil minister, Ali Tarhouni, were ushering in a “new era of tyranny and dictatorship,” Al Jazeera reported.
During the 42 years of Colonel Qaddafi’s rule, underground organizations like Mr. Belhaj’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Muslim Brotherhood were the only opposition. Although outlawed and persecuted, they had a network through mosques that secular opponents of the government could not match.
That has also given them a head start in political organizing now, and they appear to be wasting no time.
“There will be attempts by some parties to take over; it’s only natural,” said one prominent official with the Transitional National Council, who spoke anonymously so as not to alienate Islamists. “And definitely Etilaf is trying to increase its influence. And we’re hearing much more from the Islamists in the media because they are more organized and they are more articulate.”
Mr. Nayed conceded that might be true, but was unconcerned. “My answer to anyone who complains about that: You must be as articulate as they are and as organized as they are,” he said. “And I think we’re starting to see that among various youth groups.”
Fathi Ben Issa, a former Etilaf member who became an early representative on the Tripoli council, said he quit his position after learning that the Muslim Brotherhood members who dominate that body wanted to ban theater, cinema and arts like sculpture of the human form. “They were like the Taliban,” he said. “We didn’t get rid of Qaddafi to replace him with such people.” The final straw, he said,
came when Etilaf began circulating a proposed fatwa, or decree, to bar women from driving.
Most Libyans are quick to bristle at suggestions that their own Islamists might one day go the way of Iran, where after the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stomped out a short-lived liberal government by denouncing democracy as un-Islamic.
Mr. Sallabi said he hoped Libyans could find a leader on the model of George Washington, whom he had been reading about lately. “After his struggle he went back to his farm even though the American people wanted him to be president,” Mr. Sallabi said. “He is a great man.” Referring to Mr. Sallabi, Mr. Ben Issa, who said he has received death threats since breaking with the Islamists, retorted: “He is just hiding his intentions. He says one thing to the BBC and another to Al Jazeera. If you believe him, then you don’t know the Muslim Brothers.”
Libya the new terrorist haven?
By Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence
Terrorist groups are trying to set up for a long-term presence in Libya, a senior defense official said Wednesday, but American intelligence is not showing a mass movement into the country.
The official, who gave a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on the condition that the official not be identified, said the fall of Moammar Gadhafi has unleashed some groups that were constrained during the Libyan leader's regime.
The official said terrorist groups "are playing it safe in the short term, but are trying to set up a footprint and network internally for the long haul." The official said terrorist groups now have more freedom to operate within Libya, and "we're concerned about it."
Because some of the terrorist groups were clearly anti-Ghadafi, the Gadhafi regime put its military and intelligence resources into clamping down on the groups, the official said. Now the regime has collapsed, and the NTC is more concerned with dealing with the remnants of that regime than keeping an eye on militant groups.
The official suggested that the United States is seeing some movement into Libya by outside militants, but "in the dozens," not on a large scale. One reason for the militants' current low profile is the NATO presence.
"It is in their interest to keep a low profile. Any perception of them being active will only draw the kind of attention they don't want while they try to establish these networks" in Libya, the official said.
There is little current danger of the National Transitional Council being co-opted by militants, the official said, noting TNC leaders have gone to great lengths to dissociate themselves from extremists.
But when asked whether there are men inside the NTC that are affiliated with terrorist groups, the senior defense official admitted, "Yeah, probably."
Libyan militias amass weapons
By Simon Denyer, Published: September 19
TRIPOLI, Libya— At a huge weapons depot in the Libyan capital, flatbed trucks line up to be piled high with land mines, rockets and shells, before being driven off into the western mountains.
Less than a month after rebels captured Tripoli and forced longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi to flee, revolutionary militia groups are sweeping up any weapons they can find, often from huge unguarded weapons dumps left behind by Gaddafi’s forces.
Some of the groups barely recognize the authority of the new civilian government, and rivalries are already surfacing — developments that are worrying officials, civilians and human rights groups.
“Until we have a national army, this will pose a real security threat,” said Noman Benotman, a former anti-Gaddafi militant who is now a senior analyst with the Quilliam think-tank in London.
The U.S. government says the potential for Libya’s vast arsenal to end up in the wrong hands is a serious concern. U.S. officials worry that some of the thousands of unaccounted-for surface-to-air missiles — especially sophisticated shoulder-launched “man-portable air-defense systems,” known as manpads, that can bring down civilian airliners — could end up with al-Qaeda.
But a massive haul of explosives, much larger than the stockpiles left behind by Saddam Hussein that helped fuel the insurgency in Iraq, also poses a real risk, especially if Gaddafi escapes abroad and uses his vast wealth to sponsor a guerrilla movement.
“While the international community until today is focused on manpads, for Libya the greater danger is from explosives and weapons that can be turned against them, as they were in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “The mix of these unsecured warehouses, with a leader still on the run who has access to vast funds, and a proportion of the population still quite loyal to him, is a lethal one.”
In the days after Tripoli fell, some individuals looted warehouses, and some of the stolen weapons have already found their way onto the international market, said Bouckaert. He warned of the prospect that this could spread insecurity across the already volatile northern African region, from Chad and Sudan west to Niger, Mali and Algeria.
The fact that revolutionary militia groups the remaining weapons and explosives might it is nevertheless worrying those who hope emerge as a country where power comes from the gun.
are now scooping up many of seem the lesser evil, but that the new Libya will the ballot box rather than
“This is a major, major problem,” said a military commander in Tripoli, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Many of the weapons are heading to the Nafusa Mountains, home to Libya’s ethnic Berber minority, according to officials, commanders and well-connected businessmen. Others are going to Misurata, the coastal city that played a major role in resisting Gaddafi’s army during the revolution.
“These groups do not recognize any authority or any control,” complained the commander. “These are areas which suffered a lot during the last few months of the regime, and now they think that whatever they do is justified.”
Some of the most intense rivalries have emerged between liberals and Islamists, and between brigades based in Tripoli and those from the western mountains, particularly the town of Zintan.
Mountain brigades have refused to leave Tripoli and are resisting moves to bring them under civilian control.
“We want to go under the umbrella of the national army, but it is too early to execute this order,” said deputy commander Ali Cuba from Zintan, whose forces are based at Tripoli’s main airport. “We are still searching for weapons in this area, around 12,000 pieces, and we want to do this before joining the national army.”
Political observers say the Zintan fighters may be amassing weapons to protect the Berbers’ rights and because they fear Tripoli’s domination after suffering discrimination under Gaddafi’s rule.
In Misurata, commanders say they are protecting the freedoms they fought for during the uprising against Gaddafi.
“We will never give up our weapons until the country is being run by those who deserve to run it,” Misurata commander Salem Jhey told the country’s interim leader, Mustafa Abdel Jali, at a public meeting in the city last week, to cheers from the audience.
“We are in support of the legitimacy of the Transitional National Council,” he stressed, adding: “We are not after any political, economic or financial benefits.”
Mohamed Benrasali, a senior official in Misurata’s city council and a member of the team trying to stabilize Libya after four decades of Gaddafi rule, said his city would not surrender its arms “until we have an elected parliament, and an elected government and an elected president.” That could take up to two years.
At the weapons depot outside Tripoli, one fighter said the arms were headed for forces trying to storm Gaddafi’s last bastions in Sirte and Bani Walid, while another claimed that the land mines were being taken into the Sahara Desert to be destroyed under international supervision.
None of this means that Libya is about to become another Somalia. The popular desire for a peaceful, democratic future runs so deep that any militia using its weapons to fight another group would be ostracized, officials and ordinary Libyans say.
But already there is a sense in Tripoli that brigades and regions are sizing each other up based on how many fighters and weapons they possess.
The U.S. government has two weapons experts in Libya to try to stem the potential proliferation of rocket launchers, mines and small arms, and more are being sent to help train local units, the Associated Press reported Friday.
But what frustrates Human Rights Watch is that the group spent months warning the State Department, NATO and Libyan rebel authorities of the need to secure Tripoli’s stores of sophisticated weapons as soon as the capital fell, but nothing was done.
“They all really missed the boat,” Human Rights Watch special adviser Fred Abrahams said. “We’re seeing some progress now, but of course so much is already gone.”
Former Rebels’ Rivalries Hold Up Governing in Libya By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and KAREEM FAHIM
TRIPOLI, Libya — When the fighters who ousted Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi find caches of weapons from his arsenals, they do not entrust them to Libya’s new provisional government. Instead, they haul them back to their hometowns, like Misurata, Zintan, Yafran or Rujban. And when they capture members of the Qaddafi government, the fighters say, they cart them home as well.
“Why shouldn’t we?” said Mohamed Benrasali, a Misurata member of the Transitional National Council, the interim governing authority. “We call them the spoils of war.”
Anwar Fekini, a leader from the Nafusa Mountain town of Rujban, agreed: “All of us, we do the same.”
As the former rebels in Libya try to assemble a government to replace the toppled Qaddafi government, the quiet hoarding of weapons and detainees illustrates the fissures of regional rivalry and mutual distrust that continue to impede progress.
It has been almost two months since the leaders of the Transitional National Council promised to assemble a new cabinet, amid recriminations over the still-unsolved assassination of their top military commander, and they renewed that pledge more than a month ago when Tripoli fell.
But after meeting to try again on Sunday, the council’s top officials have still not overcome regional disputes over the composition of the cabinet, even though it is expected to hold power for only the first eight months after the official “liberation” of Libya is declared.
This vacuum at the top is, in turn, holding back efforts to unify the country, exert civilian authority over freewheeling militias, and get control of the weapons that now flood the streets.
Negotiations are deadlocked, council members say, over how to divide power among groups from different regions. Leaders from Benghazi, Misurata, Zintan and other cities all argue that their suffering or their contributions during the revolt entitle them to a greater voice.
Some are also challenging the council’s current face to the world, Mahmoud Jibril, a former University of Pittsburgh professor of political science who has been serving as both the prime minister and foreign minister. He faces especially determined opposition from Misurata, a center of manufacturing and trade whose fighters endured a devastating siege by Qaddafi troops, and emerged as the rebels’ most potent force.
“Misurata, we will never accept Mahmoud Jibril,” Mr. Benrasali, a spokesman for the Misurata fighters, said Sunday.
He faulted the prime minister for spending little time in Libya in the Qaddafi years and almost no time there during the revolt.
“He is a source of tension, and not a unifying figure at all,” Mr. Benrasali said. “He should do the honorable thing and just vanish.” Some in Misurata now want to charge Mr. Jibril with “treason,” Mr. Benrasali said, for weakening the transition by holding on to power.
Many in Misurata are now backing a native son for the post of prime minister: Abdul Rahman al-Swehli, a British-trained engineer from a prominent local family. “The next prime minister has to be a Libyan — a Libyan who doesn’t have a second passport, a Libyan who has lived in Libya for the last 42 years,” Mr. Benrasali said.
But fighters from the Nafusa Mountains — especially from the city of Zintan, which suffered its own brutal siege — want a greater role in the cabinet as well. Noting that the current council president, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, comes from Al Baida in the east, they say that other top posts should go to westerners — from Misurata or the mountains — who they say deserve credit for ending Colonel Qaddafi’s hold on Tripoli.
“Like Misurata, we are the ones who paid the highest price,” said one council member from the mountains, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. “So there is no question who is going to take the prime minister, the defense minister, the interior minister, the foreign minister, the justice minister — during this transitional phase, they should certainly go to the people who carried the revolution.”
Meanwhile, residents of Benghazi, the largest city in the east, noted that they had started the revolt and had worked for months to supply weapons and money by boat and plane to rebels in Misurata and the Nafusa Mountains. “Benghazi carried the weight of the country through this difficult period,” said Shamsiddin Abdul Molah, a spokesman for the council.
He said the council was now “weak” and deadlocked, and he acknowledged that bands of fighters were hoarding weapons and captives. But he said he hoped that elections would ultimately give legitimacy to a new government.
Supporters of Mr. Jibril, meanwhile, say the deadlock results from a power struggle among Misurata, Zintan and the other towns of the mountains, and that Mr. Jibril played a crucial role in the rebellion by building international support. Without NATO airstrikes, they note, none of the rebel brigades could have triumphed.
During a news conference in Benghazi this week, Mr. Jalil, the council president, rejected demands for allotting political power based on the toll of revolt. Though cities like Zintan and Misurata deserved “priority in reconstruction” and recognition by history, he said, “fighting and struggle is not a measure for representation in government.”
“Membership in the transitional national council and the new government is a right guaranteed to all of us,” he added, and the council decided long ago to reserve as much representation for residents of Qaddafi strongholds as for the most rebellious towns. “We have two seats for Surt, same as for Tobruk, regardless of Tobruk’s early support for the revolution and Surt’s delayed support,” he said.
Still, Mr. Jibril has been trying to name a new cabinet since early August, when the top rebel military leader, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, was killed in circumstances that appeared to implicate council officials. Summoned to Benghazi on suspicion of betraying the rebels, General Younes and two aides were shot to death — out of revenge, officials said, over the general’s role in suppressing an Islamist insurgency in 1996.
The killing was embarrassing for the provisional government as well as for General Younes’ powerful tribe, and no prosecution has been announced. “It’s in no one’s interest to solve this thing,” a former rebel official said.
Libyan authorities struggle to rein in militias
By Tara Bahrampour, Thursday, October 6, 12:26 AM
TRIPOLI, Libya — The main stage in Martyrs’ Square, the Libyan capital’s central plaza, has been plastered with signs.
No to carrying weapons, they read. No to randomly firing bullets and rockets. No to the continued military presence here and in other liberated cities.
The signs reflect the concerns of residents, who say they are fed up with the militias that have taken over the streets of Tripoli in the past two months.
“We are not feeling safe,” said Aman Sad, 38, a nurse walking in the square. “The ones who are carrying weapons are young men who are not trained.”
But asking revolutionaries to leave town after a revolution is a delicate matter, especially for a government still fighting on at least two fronts. As it works to create a cohesive national army, Libya’s Transitional National Council must also find a place for the thousands of men who formed separate brigades that were instrumental in toppling autocrat Moammar Gaddafi.
The council must do so while facing internal struggles over issues such as how closely to hew to Islamic vs. secular ideologies, what to do with people associated with the old government and how to satisfy towns that lost many fighters and are demanding a greater say in the new order.
Since sweeping into Tripoli in August, out-of-town revolutionaries have been striding around with Kalashnikovs and pistols that they sometimes fire skyward in displays of bravado. Residents of the capital are tiring of them, and skirmishes have erupted between outside brigades and Tripoli fighters, who say they can secure the city on their own.
The head of Tripoli’s military council, Abdulhakim Belhadj, called this week for unauthorized militias to leave the city. But some brigade members say they do not recognize him as their leader.
And with a national army that is in the process of reforming and has no commander, some say the militias’ presence is necessary.
If the outside brigades leave Tripoli, “car bombs will go off the next day,” said Mohamed Benrasali, a council member from Misurata who leads Libya’s civilian stabilization team.
Waiting for Sirte to fall
Benrasali said the TNC plans to move the brigades and heavy weaponry into barracks on the outskirts of Tripoli, while about 5,000 lightly armed, uniformed troops who will secure strategic areas and 3,000 others who will help carry out policing duties will remain in the city. Similar forces will be placed in other cities and will remain until there is an elected government, he said.
Libya moved one step closer to that objective this week when its leaders announced that they plan to declare the country liberated upon the fall of Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town, even if fighting continues in other parts. At that point, an interim government will be established, leading toward a constitution and elections.
But disarmament will be difficult as long as there are competing groups that don’t trust one another and don’t have faith in the system, said Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London. “The crucial question is whether these militias can be persuaded to disarm once a political process is underway and there are legitimate means to power.”
For now, the brigades create an “aura” that strikes fear in Gaddafi loyalists, Benrasali said “They’re so invincible and so ruthless at the same time. If they leave, honestly, I will leave. Tripoli will not be safe.”
Status of fighters, weapons
Hisham Krekshi, deputy chairman of the Tripoli local council that oversees the city’s military council, said that although it is important not to anger the revolutionaries, “slowly people have to go back to school, dentists have to go back to the clinic, workers have to go back to work. I’m sure in a few months these people will dissolve back into society.”
On Wednesday, the TNC decreed that one group, the Supreme Security Committee, would oversee security for Tripoli, that heavy and medium weapons should be out of the city in a week and that brigades would need to leave public buildings, Krekshi said.
Libya’s new leaders hope that some militia members will join the police or the national army. But many are dismissive of the army, which during Gaddafi’s time was weak compared with the militias led by his sons.
The army has some experienced soldiers, including defectors who fought alongside revolutionary brigades. And 500 new army recruits completed training this week. But a commander has not yet been chosen to replace Abdul Fattah Younis, a former Gaddafi general who joined the rebels and was assassinated in July.
Militia members who don’t want to join the army could be offered positions in a national guard or given allowances as they seek work in the civil sector, said Atif El-Hasia, deputy head of operations of the army’s 1st Infantry Brigade.
Many are from backwater towns with few prospects. “The only thing they live on right now is pride — they eat, drink and breathe pride,” Hasia said. “Standing at a checkpoint, where people give them food and say, ‘You’re doing very well, God bless you,’ if you take this away, what are they going to do the next day?”
The TNC has called for people to turn in weapons or register them, and officials say they may institute a weapons buyback program. But many arms remain unaccounted for. Gaddafi handed out 16,000 to 18,000 weapons in the waning days of his rule, Hasia said.
Libya’s international allies also are worried about large weapons caches — including surface-to-air missiles — that were left unguarded as Tripoli fell. U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz has called the missing weapons “an area of intense concern for the White House.”
In Tripoli, residents complain that the men with guns are scaring children, and some have accused revolutionaries from the western city of Zintan of taking weapons and prisoners, as well as luxury cars, personal watercraft and even an elephant from the zoo, back to their mountainous home town.
The Zintani brigades, which played a significant role in ousting Gaddafi, have set up bases around Tripoli, including one at a beachside villa complex that once housed his cronies. On Tuesday, young fighters in pickup trucks there drove past graffiti on walls that proclaimed, “Zintanis are lions.”
“Without us, none of this would have happened,” said Omar al-Obeidi, deputy commander of a Zintani brigade. “We were the ones who opened up Tripoli. In the end, Tripoli is not for Tripolitanians; Tripoli is for all the people.”
AQIM's Al-Bulaydi Urges Libyans To Establish Islamic State, Condemns Secularism
GMP20111027489002 Ana al-Muslim Network in Arabic 27 Oct 11
[15-minute 40-second audio message by AQIM figure Abu-al-Hassan Rashid al-Bulaydi, produced by the Al-Andalus Establishment for Media Production, disseminated by the Al-Fajr Media Center, and posted by "Abu-Ubaydah al-Misri," user number 110733; dated 16 October: "An Open
Message to the Muslims in Libya " -- processed from audio; for a copy of the audio, contact [email protected]
or the OSC Customer Center at (800) 205-8615. Selected video also available at OpenSource.gov]
[The 15-minute 40-second audio starts with a caption that reads: "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate; the Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb; the Al-Andalus for Media Production; 17 Dhu-al-Qi'dah 1432, corresponding to 16 October 2011." Then, another caption appears and it reads: "'An Open Message to the Muslims in Libya;' a Speech by the Jihadist Shaykh Abu-al-Hasan Rashid al-Bulaydi, May God Preserve Him."]
[Then, a still image of Abu-al-Hasan al-Bulaydi appears to the left of the screen and the logo of the Al-Andalus Establishment for Media Production appears in the bottom-right corner of the screen. The voice of Al-Bulaydi is heard saying:]
May God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you. Praise be to God. Prayers and peace be upon Muhammad, his household, and his companions. There is no might, nor power except from God. Thereafter:
"O my Lord! Expand me my breast; and make my task easy for me, and loosen the knot from my tongue so that they might fully understand my speech," [Koranic verses, Ta-Ha, 20:25-28].
O Muslim brothers in dear Libya, I would like to say that he who does not thank people never thanks God. Thus, I, on behalf of the mujahidin in the Islamic Maghreb, would like to thank you for your rebellion against the tyrant. May God bless you and may He accept your jihad and martyrs. Your revolution has proved that Islam is deeply rooted in this blessed ummah [Muslim community worldwide]. It has also proved that those tyrants are strangers to Islam and the ummah. Those tyrants are not part of the ummah and did not make use of history. They rejected to acknowledge that Islam is more significant than they are and that it is immune from their cunning. No matter how they try "to extinguish Allah's Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it)," [partial Koranic verse, Al-Saff, 61:8]. "Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable? - A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens,- of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition. Yielding
its fruit at all times by its Sustainer's leave. And [thus it is that] God propounds parables unto men,' so that they might bethink themselves [of the truth]. And the parable of a corrupt word is that of a corrupt tree, torn up [from its roots] onto the face of the earth, wholly unable to endure. [Thus,] God grants firmness unto those who have attained to faith through the word that is unshakably true in the life of this world as well as in the life to come; but the wrongdoers He lets go astray: for God does whatever He wills," [Koranic verses, Ibrahim, 14:24-27].
We have followed the incidents that took place in your arena. We are so happy with this victory. We are so happy with the fall of the tyrant and the march of the Muslim ummah while shouting, "God is Great" and prostrating for God to thank Him. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the current malicious Crusader presence. However, we supplicate to God to preserve you and us and grant all of us steadfastness.
[Imam] Muslim narrated on the authority of Abu-Ruqayah Tamim Bin-Aws al-Dari, may God be pleased with him, that "the Prophet, prayers and peace be upon him, said: 'Religion is sincere advice.' We (the companions) said: 'For whom, O Messenger of God?' He said: 'For the sake of God, His Book (Koran), His Messenger, Muslim leaders, and Muslim common folks.'"
Thus, through advice, you guide the one you advise to righteousness. This applies to giving advice to Muslim leaders and commons. The general advice to every Muslim is to love all other Muslims for the sake of God, wish his Muslim brothers what he likes for himself, wish that no harm befalls them the way he hates that harm befalls him, feel petty for them, have mercy on the Muslim youngsters, respect Muslim elders, feel sad for the sorrows of the Muslims, share their joys, support them in attaining righteousness, seek whatever that makes them well, socialize with them, wish that God's grace be bestowed upon them eternally, support them against their enemy, to ward off harm from them, cooperate with them to attain goodness and righteousness and not to cooperate with them to commit a sin or hostility, reveal righteousness to them and advise them to follow it, and to illustrate to them all that would be useful to them in life and afterlife by advising them in words and deeds.
Al-Fudayl Bin-Iyad, may God rest his soul, said: "For me, a winner [of Paradise] is not necessarily the one who performs too many prayers or fasts many days. For me, the winner is the one who is generous, pure, and gives advice to his ummah."
Giving advice to fellow Muslims is one of the basics of the religion, which is not barred by geographical borders or differences in cultures and customs. Thus, I would like to give my brothers some pieces of advice, taking into consideration that Libya has its own circumstances, the same as the rest of Muslim countries. I am aware that Libya contains Muslim commons, followers of the Islamic awakening with their different approaches, and seculars. Thus, I will be concise without prejudice to my meanings, for a word is enough to the wise. I supplicate to God to grant my brothers patience to listen to my advice. I ask them that whatever of my words they deem right, they should accept it, and whatever of my words they deem wrong, they should reject it politely. It suffices me that whoever seeks to attain righteousness, based on sincere effort, and gets it right, he will earn double reward and if he gets it wrong, he will still be rewarded. Thus, I say, after relying on God:
The whole issue starts with that westerner, who is a stranger to our religion and homeland. Fair people cannot ignore the effect of the air cover provided by the crusader NATO to tip the balance of power [in favor of the Libyan rebels]. However, sane people who are familiar with the history and nature of the relation between the crusader West and Muslims are aware of the fact that such interference is not an innocent one. It does not emerge from the love of the Muslim Libyan people. It does not intend to liberate it from the grip of oppression and slavery or to allow it to build its future away from foreign tutelage. Those crusaders were the ones dealing with the dictator, and their hands are stained with the blood of the innocent people. They recognized him while he was torturing the Muslims of Libya to fight their religion and subject them to poverty under the very eyes of the international community, which drawls freedom and justice.
The crusader West is motivated by its interests fueled by deeplyrooted crusader hatred of Islam and Muslims. If that is not the case, then where were the international justice and sympathy from the weak people all those years in which the tyrant and his sons ruled Libya? Where were they from the killing of women, old people, and young boys in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries? Where are they from the Syrian tyrant who claims the lives of innocent people every day?
By supporting your revolution, the Crusader NATO wants to contain it in order to be the decisionmaker in the process of shaping the identity of the alternate state. It wants it to be a secular state
with odd soul and directions, an ally to the enemies of Islam, and aggressive and hostile to the jihadist trend, not to mention the acquisition of the investment and reconstruction contracts singlehandedly. The West does not agree on a Shari'ah rule or an Islamic emirate, even if in the forests of Africa, then what about Libya with its strategic location?
Complex as is, the situation requires unfailing wisdom and firmness free of rashness to ensure harvesting the fruit of all those sacrifices in a way that pleases God the Almighty. I warn you against not paying attention or undermining the enemy's evil plotting to steal the fruit of your jihad. You are familiar with how revolutions are stolen and how movements are contained. I warn you against talks leading to any compromise in your core values. I warn you against the birth of a young tyrant who grows up with time to repeat the catastrophe but with new faces. A small deviation at the beginning of the road will eventually lead to a different path. Those who do not hold on tight to their values, accept disgrace. There is no wound that will stop causing pain. Know that every soul has shortcomings, and that the devil has insinuations and evil incitement. So, do not do the wrong thing and call for peace while you have the upper hand and God is on your side.
My brothers, I also wish that you distinguish between the doctrinal issue of seeking help from infidels and preserving gratitude on the one hand, and the belief in establishing a Shari'ah rule, which rises above any debate or compromise on the other. Do not be terrorized by the power of the crusader West as God is more powerful. Never say: "If we were to follow the guidance with thee, we should be snatched away from our land," [partial Koranic verse, Al-Qasas, 28:57]. Investigation the truth and pleasing God are the way to glory and victory, so do not work on pleasing the West instead of pleasing God. We have faith in you, "The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its mingling arises the produce of the earth- which provides food for men and animals: (It grows) till the earth is clad with its golden ornaments and is decked out (in beauty): the people to whom it belongs think they have all powers of disposal over it: There reaches it Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown, as if it had not flourished only the day before! thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect," [Koranic verse, Yunus, 10:24].
"IF Allah findeth any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you," [partial koranic verse, AlAnfal, 8:70]. "IF ye turn back (from the Path), He will substitute in
your stead another people; then they would not be like you," [partial Koranic verse, Muhammad, 47:38].
As for you the people of "God is Great" [Muslims], people of Islam and jihad, you are the hope of Muslims. God has chosen you for a great troth, the troth of eliminating tyranny and establishing truth. Thus, fulfill this duty perfectly and do not betray God, the Messenger, or the believers.
Nobody denies your jihad [great efforts] in mobilizing the ummah and in leading it to progress. You are the ones who engaged in battle in the frontiers and watered the land with your blood. Beware of the sedition of spoils. It is the time to show the enemies and the friends that Islam is above the partisan affiliations, the jurisprudential doctrines, and the factional choices.
Be careful that your individuals and groups do not overwhelm Islam, and beware not to lose the opportunity in order not to regret in a day when regret will be of no avail.
Thus, exchange views and go into a huddle on the ways that honor your religion and your brothers, and do not dash the hopes of Muslims. Unify your wills and efforts, and put your trust in God to start in establishing God's Shari'ah in the Libya of Umar al-Mukhtar. This is, anyway, the command of God and His Messenger. The governance of Shari'ah [God's law] is above the national unity and the security of Libya.
It may be that God make a victory at your hands that satisfies the believers!
Harvest the outcomes of your da'wah [calling to God] and jihad by your own hands and beware not to be the scapegoat!
Beware not to repeat the same experience of the Islamic revolutions against the crusader occupation.
The people of trenches [mujahidin] exert many efforts while the people of hotels [politicians] meanly and falsely vituperate the efforts of others. This phase is critical and everybody is on the lookout!
Take care of mobilizing, guiding, and assembling the ummah in favor of the Islamic solution against the secular one. Moreover, put the ummah into a frame in order to maintain its achievements and provide it with awareness and patience. Do not think that the way is difficult since the troth is great and the sacrifice should befit its greatness.
Take action to liberate the ummah from the tyrants of Arabs and nonArabs. Let the Libya of Islam be a pure-identity and be an Islamicoriented [state] that do not submit to the dictations of the tyrants of Arabs and non-Arabs. The secularists and atheists who impose their guardianship on our ummah are broke; they do not have achievements in their worldly life or in their spiritual life since they neither introduced the ummah a project that reforms and rescues it from the subordination to the Jews and Christians, nor even a project that liberate the ummah from retardation and poverty.
The Crusade West exerts their best to attack Muslims and will not accept the establishment of an Islamic ruling [system] and the commonalty may be worn out from wars. Yet, the aim of the Muslim individual is that the ruling and governance be only to God Who has no partner. It is a kind of stupidity to sacrifice his soul for the Crusade West and their secular agents. Everybody is on the lookout, and whatever the results are, there is a chance to obtain force and to mobilize the ummah for the decisive hour, that you will schedule by yourself, for establishing the governance of the Shari'ah, so do not miss the opportunity!
[Start of poetic verse]
Do not lose any opportunity before you because you never know when it may come to you again!
[End of poetic verse]
Almighty God says: " And this (He commands): Judge thou between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, but
beware of them lest they beguile thee from any of that (teaching) which Allah hath sent down to thee. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crime it is Allah's purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious" [Koranic verse, Al-Ma'idah, 5:49].
[Ahmad] Shawqi also said: [Start of poetic verses]
God almighty is sitting on the throne and the people in His kingdom are equal,
Religion is easy, the Caliphate is conducted by pledge, the affairs are conducted by consultation, and the rights are warranted.
[End of poetic verses]
O people of jihad in Libya,
The war has not come to an end yet, whether with the apparent enemies or the hidden ones. I warn you against surrendering your weapons. The enemies of God succeeded in humiliating and enslaving us only when they disarmed us even from knives. Be careful; do not neglect your weapons and unite your lines. "Fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere," [partial Koranic verse, AlAnfal, 8:46]. The purpose of any Muslim is to see the Shari'ah of God, which has been neglected for decades, ruling in Muslims' countries and their religion and life. This is "until there is no more tumult or oppression and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere," [partial Koranic verse, Al-Anfal, 8:39].
I add that you, my brothers, shall be very wary of being deceived by your power. Learn a lesson from the Battle of Hunayn [battle between Muslims and the tribe of Hawazin where Muslims were deceived by their power]. Do not forget God Who grants power. Do not forget Him by obeying Him and sincerely submitting to Him at night. "If Allah helps you, none can overcome you: if He forsakes you, who is there after that that can help you? In Allah, then, let believers put their trust," [Koranic verse, Al-Imran, 3:160].
As one of the poets once said:
[Start of poetic verse]
If God does not grant support to the young man, any supporter, except God, will fail him.
[End of poetic verse]
Avoid violence, whether through word or action, with people in general and with those who disagree with you in particular; gentility improves everything while violence spoils it.
O shaykhs of the tribes and dignitaries,
People follow their leaders in goodness and corruption. Today's battle involves the whole Muslim ummah. Allegiance shall be to God, His Messenger, and the believers. Avoid the fanaticism of the jahiliyah [pre-Islam times] because it is evil and will be of no use before God. "And hold fast, all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves," [partial Koranic verse, Al-Imran, 3:103]. Take your positions with your jihadist brothers in the trenches.
"As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Messenger, and the Believers- it is the party of Allah that must certainly triumph," [Koranic verse, Al-Ma'idah, 5:56].
Do not betray your religion and people. Treason is disgrace and shame. Raising sheep is better that raising pigs. He whom God humiliates, no one can honor him. Call for the rule of God and His Messenger and support it. Do not be harmed by the hatred of those who disagree with you because God will weaken the disbelievers' scheme. The pride of life and hereafter is on God's side. "The answer of the Believers when summoned to Allah and His Messenger in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say 'We hear and we obey': it is such as these that will attain felicity. It is such as
obey Allah and His Messenger and fear Allah and do right, that will win (in the end)," [Koranic verses, Al-Nur, 24:51].
[Start of poetic verse]
All our countries are occupied. Thus, it is the same if the invaders stayed or left. Will hope pay off in our countries if it brings death? Will liberating countries be of use if souls move with the cuffs of slavery? Submit to God, your Creator, before returning to Him. Those who failed their religion cannot bring victory.
[End of poetic verse]
We supplicate to God to guide you and all the Muslims to the right path, on which He honors His pious worshipers and humiliates His enemies and on which obedience to Him is exercised and disobedience is prevented.
Prayers and peace be upon Muhammad and upon his household and companions. God suffices us, for He is the best disposer of affairs.
May God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you.
[The audio ends with a caption that reads: "Greetings from you brothers at the Al-Andalus Establishment for Media Production; 17 Dhual-Qi'dah, corresponding to 16 October 2011."]
[To view the vernacular, click here.]
[Description of Source: Ana al-Muslim Network in Arabic The largest, most doctrinally diverse jihadist website in the online jihadist environment; while generally supportive of Al-Qa'ida's worldview, discussions in the site's forums feature a vocal minority of participants who occasionally argue against Al-Qa'ida and terrorism in general; the site has been online in its current format since at least
1996 and possesses a more moderate tone than other jihadist websites; URL: www.muslm.net/vb]
Libya struggles to create army out of militias By Mary Beth Sheridan, Published: October 31
TRIPOLI, LIBYA — Libya has emerged from its civil war with more than 300 militias and no political consensus on forming a national army, raising concerns that irregular, gun-toting groups could become entrenched and pose a long-term challenge to the government, officials here said.
On Monday, Libyan leaders began to establish a new interim government with the authority to create the armed forces, choosing the technocratic Abdurrahim el-Keib as prime minister. But the militiamen who won the eight-month war have made it clear that they will not submit meekly to the new civilian authorities.
“Creating a new army is not going to be by an official statement or resolution. It has to come after a negotiation,” said Anis Sharif, a spokesman for Abdulhakim Belhadj, an Islamist seen as the dominant militia leader in Tripoli.
Reining in the militias is crucial to restoring order after the fighting between NATO-backed revolutionaries and loyalists of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, diplomats say. NATO officially ended its operations in Libya on Monday night, giving the country full responsibility for its own security.
Although many of the fighters have been in a celebratory mood since the war ended, several confrontations between rival militias have
threatened to escalate into bloodshed — including one at Tripoli’s airport Monday.
“The danger is that you have young men returning from battle, bored and with a newfound sense of regional identity and personal pride,” said a Western official in Tripoli, who was not authorized to comment on the record.
Militia and military leaders recognize the need to demobilize or integrate fighters into the security services, the official said. “But the key will be agreeing and implementing a plan to do this.”
‘A political vacuum’
Efforts to relaunch the army have been hobbled by the central government’s weakness and rivalries among revolutionaries.
Sharif said that one of the main goals of the Transitional National Council was to avoid a political vacuum.
“On this point, they failed — and failed completely,” he said, recalling that many of the council’s members remained in the eastern city of Benghazi, the bastion of the revolution, after Gaddafi’s forces were driven from Tripoli in August. “They left the capital with a political vacuum,” he said, and militias from other areas have moved in and set up camp.
Islamist fighters have squabbled with revolutionaries who once belonged to the national army over who should lead Libya’s new armed forces, so the top post is vacant, officials said. The military’s No. 2 officer — Deputy Chief of Staff Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi — was stunned last month when a militia from the western Zintan region seized control of his Tripoli base while he was out of town, his aides said.
In response, Obeidi summoned about 700 heavily armed revolutionaries and threatened to wrest back control of the base, an old army supply
headquarters in western Tripoli, said his son and legal adviser, Haytham al-Obeidi.
“It could have been a real confrontation. We were very, very angry,” the younger Obeidi said. The crisis was defused only when President Mustafa Abdel Jalil intervened, he said.
Haytham al-Obeidi said there were tensions between fighters from eastern Libya, where army officers such as his father defected en masse, and those from the west, many of them irregulars who took on Gaddafi’s military, risking torture and death.
Another confrontation occurred Monday evening at Tripoli’s military airport, where revolutionaries from eastern Libya pulled their guns on the crew of a military aircraft to try to get it to fly them to Benghazi, said Tripoli militia members who guard the facility. The group from the east was arrested, they said.
Human rights concerns
The lack of a unified Libyan military and police force has alarmed human rights activists, who say militias are meting out justice on an ad hoc basis to the country’s roughly 7,000 political prisoners, sometimes resorting to torture. At least 100 militias are operating in the city of Misurata, which suffered a bloody siege during the war, and more than 150 are in Tripoli, Western officials said. There are dozens more in Benghazi.
The cities have established councils to oversee the armed groups, but the degree of organization is limited.
Sadiq Turki, a revolutionary who is director of a military hospital in Tripoli, told a reporter that all of his militia members had ID cards and had to register their weapons.
“It’s forbidden to fire in the streets,” said Turki, wearing a black T-shirt and camouflage pants. “Even my bullets, we do an inventory. Someone comes every few days and counts.”
But moments after he spoke, someone with a semiautomatic rifle let loose with a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat in the hospital garden, apparently firing in the air for fun. “Who’s shooting? Who’s shooting?” Turki demanded.
Militias possess not only rifles, but also antiaircraft guns, rocket launchers and other heavy weapons.
“In the future, we’ll give them up to the military — when we have a military,” said Ashraf Jibril, 32, a jeans-clad revolutionary guarding the military airport. But the military can exert control only if the armed militias abandon their weapons, diplomats say.
Sharif said militia leaders are trying to form an umbrella group to negotiate with the government on the new military. A chief demand, he said, is that longtime Gaddafi allies who changed sides during the revolution not get top jobs.
“We don’t want, after all this sacrifice . . . to see the same old faces in charge again,” he said.
Diplomats say they expect Belhadj, who played a key role in the revolution, to seek senior Defense Ministry posts for his allies. That has caused some unease among Western officials, since Belhadj belonged to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization. Belhadj has said he did not support al-Qaeda, as some members of the group did.
Under Gaddafi, Libya had an elite military force of about 25,000, plus a roughly equal number of low-paid, poorly equipped conscripts and officers. A vast group of young men with little military experience joined the revolution — doctors, students, used-car salesmen and others. Many seem to want to stay, in part because the economy has slowed to a crawl.
A Defense Ministry spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani, said that all qualified revolutionaries would be welcome in the new armed forces of the oil-
rich country. “We have enough money, we have enough jobs for them,” he said.
Several militia members said they would be willing to return to civilian life if ordered to do so. But some seem to be settling in for the long haul.
Jibril, who was a dentist before the revolution, showed a reporter a former hotel near the military airport that is being converted into a headquarters for his men. It had an office with a conference table that seats 25.
“We’ll make a cafe here, for coffee and tea,” he said, showing off a bar.
So was he planning to stay for a while? “I think so,” he said. “Because of the security of the country. We can’t count on the old police. Most of them were with Gaddafi.”
In Libya, Fighting May Outlast the Revolution By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
TRIPOLI, Libya — Many of the local militia leaders who helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are abandoning a pledge to give up their weapons and now say they intend to preserve their autonomy and influence political decisions as “guardians of the revolution.”
The issue of the militias is one of the most urgent facing Libya’s new provisional government, the Transitional National Council. Scores of freewheeling brigades of armed volunteers sprang up around the country and often reported to local military councils, which became de facto local governments in cities like Misurata and Zintan, as well as the capital, Tripoli.
The provisional government’s departing prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, suggested in a news conference Sunday night that instead of expecting the local militias to disband, the Transitional National Council should try to incorporate them by expanding to include their representatives.
“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.
Noting reports of sporadic clashes between militias as well as vigilante revenge killings, many civilian leaders, along with some fighters, say the militias’ shift from merely dragging their feet about surrendering weapons to actively asserting a continuing political role poses a stark challenge to the council’s fragile authority.
“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” said Ramadan Zarmoh, 63, a leader of the Misurata military council, who argued that the city’s militia should dissolve itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”
His view, however, appears to be in the minority. Many members of military councils insist that they need to stay armed until a new constitution is ratified because they do not trust the weak provisional government to steer Libya to democracy on its own.
“We are the ones who are holding the power there — the people with the force on the ground — and we are not going to give that up until we have a legitimate government that will emerge from free and fair elections,” said Anwar Fekini, a French-Libyan lawyer who is a leader of the armed groups in the western mountains and is also close to top leaders of the transitional council.
“We will make sure we are going to bring the country to a civil constitution and democratic system,” he added, “and we will use all available means — first of all our might on the ground.”
Militia leaders have already demonstrated their resolve to step into the political process. Before the provisional government named a new prime minister Monday night, local leaders in Misurata — speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid an open fight with the national council — threatened that if it failed to agree on a candidate they deemed satisfactory, local military councils from cities in western Libya might intercede to decide the question.
The choice for prime minister, Abdel Rahim el-Keeb, a Tripoli engineer and businessman, pleased the Western cities and resolved the matter peacefully. But officials of the national council say the threat of intervention itself undermines the transition to civilian democracy, in which disputes are settled with ballots or gavels, not with weapons.
Mr. Shammam said that armed intervention “would be a disaster” and that adopting a new constitution should happen “under the umbrella of the law — police stations, judges — rather than military councils and the force of arms.”
He and others in the national council say they hope that as their next transitional government takes over and begins to build a national army, a goal that has so far remained elusive, local military councils will begin to stand down. Referring to the promised election of a governing body this year, he added, “If the military councils start to extend and expand themselves, they will be a replacement for a national assembly.”
Some point to neighboring Egypt, where the council of military officers that took power at the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak has delayed a transition to civilian control. Others say there is a danger Libya could resemble the chaos in Yemen or Syria because there are several autonomous militias poised to take on a political role — in Tripoli, in the western mountain towns like Zintan and its neighbors, in Misurata, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.
In the east and in Tripoli, some of the largest, best-equipped brigades are associated with Islamist groups now forming political parties. “They will keep their arms as long as they are not part of the power,” Mr. Shammam, who is a liberal, predicted.
There have already been clashes between armed groups. Two weeks ago, fighters from Zintan and Misurata fought briefly at the Tripoli international airport, leaving about three dead, said Abed Rzag alBakesh, 40, a military leader from Zintan. He said provocations by a Qaddafi loyalist in disguise were to blame.
Last week, a shootout erupted between two groups in the capital’s central Martyrs Square, which the local military council has now banned other fighters from entering.
After the conquest last month of Colonel Qaddafi’s last holdout, in Surt, fighters from Misurata and Benghazi clashed briefly over looting, Mr. Zarmoh, the Misurata commander, said, though he said none were injured.
And early Monday morning, a group of Zintan fighters attacked a Tripoli hospital, seeking revenge for what they said was the killing of a colleague, according to reports on Tripoli radio.
“The N.T.C. appears to be helpless,” Abdurraham K. Shater, a respected columnist in one of the dozens of new newspapers, The Nation, said of the transitional council, “like a deceived husband who does not know what’s going on behind his back, or who knows but goes along.”
The Transitional National Council has pledged in a “constitutional declaration” that within eight months after the selection of a new government, it will hold elections for a national assembly, which will oversee the writing of a constitution. (Mr. Jibril, in his news conference, appeared to suggest casting the “declaration” aside without much fuss, raising questions about how binding it is.)
With no history of electoral democracy, Libya’s provisional authorities must draw electoral districts and devise a voting system — decisions with inevitable winners and losers, politically and geographically.
During the uprising, officials of the Transitional National Council vowed to give equal voice to all Libyans, regardless of their location or political position.
But leaders in Misurata, a commercial center that withstood a long siege to emerge as the arsenal of Libyan revolt, say they are advocating a four-point set of criteria for representation that would increase their say, at the expense of smaller towns or those who stayed loyal to Colonel Qaddafi: population, size, economic output and “priority in liberation.”
Some in the eastern areas around Benghazi, neglected under Colonel Qaddafi in favor of the West, are now arguing for Libya to return to a loose federal structure that could protect them from domination by Tripoli and Misurata. But Azza Kamil al-Maghour, a human rights lawyer who recently held a conference in Misurata to talk about the transition process, said she was particularly surprised by the open determination to introduce weapons to the political process. “They stood up and said, ‘We are not going to give up our arms until the constitution is drafted,’ ” she said. “You cannot have a civil democratic society with weapons — how can you make elections?”
Libya militias taking law into own hands
Many of the fighters that pushed Muammar Qaddafi from power have refused to stand down. Now, some of Libya militias are allegedly stealing and targeting Qaddafi supporters for revenge.
By Gert Van Langendonck, Correspondent / November 4, 2011
How do you ask a group of armed men if the rumors that they’re a gang of ordinary thieves are true? You begin with a joke.
“Is it true that you guys stole an elephant from the Tripoli zoo, took it back to Zintan, and mounted an antiaircraft gun on its back?”
Mohamed Kor, a stern, bearded commander of the Zintan Brigade, can’t help but chuckle.
“I know we have a bad reputation,” he says in his office in Rigatta, a luxury beachfront compound in West Tripoli, where the fighters from Zintan have taken up residence. “We get called every day by people who say that fighters from Zintan are stealing. But it’s not true. These are common criminals who abuse the name Zintan because they think it will protect them. As soon as we catch them we will expose them to the world.”
And no, he adds, “the elephant really wasn’t us.”
Maybe not, but heavily armed militias like Mr. Kor’s are very much the elephant in the room of post-Qaddafi Libya.
The new Libya is dominated by militias like the Zintan Brigade. They participated in the liberation of Tripoli in August and they never left. Now that the fighting is over, most militias won’t give up their guns. Accusations of mafia-style behavior are growing, as are worries that inter-militia fighting could break out before the new Libya is even born.
Saying that the fighters from Zintan, a small town in Libya’s western mountains, have a bad reputation is putting it mildly. The word “Zintani” has replaced the word “thief” in Tripoli street slang.
They are far from the only armed group around. On Sunday, Oct. 30, a firefight broke out between fighters from Zintan and Misurata; a
Zintani was killed. Zintan fighters then followed an ambulance carrying a wounded Misurati, seeking to execute the man in revenge. That didn’t happen, but on Monday another firefight broke out outside the hospital, wounding four.
That same day, a small demonstration in Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square protested against the continued presence of heavily armed fighters in the capital. Growing numbers of ordinary citizens fail to see why fighters should still be tearing around in pickup trucks with antiaircraft guns mounted in the back. Scorched earth
The battle-hardened fighters from Misurata have, if anything, the worst reputation of the lot.
Few cities in Libya suffered as much during the war as the western coastal town of Misurata, where more than 1,000 people were killed during a months-long siege by Muammar Qaddafi’s troops.
As a result, Misurata’s fighters feel they are accountable to no one, not even the country’s interim government.
They say they’ve earned the right to do what they like, and are showing some disturbing tendencies distinctly at odds with the prodemocracy aspirations voiced by Libyans, who have already paid dearly for Mr. Qaddafi’s overthrow.
For instance, the men from Misurata have unilaterally declared that the inhabitants of Tawargha, a mostly black neighboring city where many people stayed loyal to Qaddafi, will not be allowed to return. Fighters from Misurata have chased the residents of Tawargha all over Libya, arresting them in refugee camps and jailing them in Misurata. Last week, they began burning houses in Tawargha to make sure that nobody returns.
Graffiti in the streets of Misurata even opposes the aaidoun or returnees, meaning people from Misurata who fled the city during the siege by Qaddafi’s troops.
“It’s the new propaganda,” says one Libyan human rights activist who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Misurata feels that they’re the heroes of this war and therefore they deserve a bigger piece of the pie. But what Misurata is doing in Tawargha is a time bomb under the future of Libya.” A lawless new Libya?
The activist and two other men in a dingy Tripoli office have just formed a new human rights organization to document violations in the new Libya.
All three played key roles in the uprising against the rule of Qaddafi. Now they are concerned about the lawlessness.
“Misurata considers every Libyan citizen a Qaddafi supporter until proven otherwise,” says the activist. “If I have a problem with you, all I need to do is call Misurata and you will be kidnapped from your house and taken to Misurata.”
He gives examples: a student who denounced his professor, the president of a sports club who was accused by someone who wanted to take his place. “Every day we get phone calls from people looking for missing relatives.”
He does not hesitate to compare the situation to that of the 1980s, the height of the repression under Qaddafi. “It is the same climate of fear where people are afraid to speak out for fear of being denounced as Qaddafi supporters.”
The human rights group is not planning to go public anytime soon: For now they are discreetly using their own wasta (connections) with the revolutionary fighters to get people released.
There are signs that time is running out, with both an increasingly uneasy public and rivalries between militias erupting into open conflict.
The Iraq scenario
The misconduct of some of the militias is not just a security issue. It also threatens to upset the delicate relationships between Libya’s various tribes.
Bani Walid, where Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam made his last stand, had hoped to avoid a fight.
The western city is the capital of the Warfalla, Libya’s biggest tribe, with 1.2 million members. Many Warfalla were loyal to Qaddafi, but many others – including interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril – joined the rebellion.
After the fall of Tripoli, anti-Qaddafi members of the Warfalla tribe went shopping for a suitable brigade to negotiate the surrender of their town.
Zintan fighters were out of the question because they are occasional rivals, and Misurata was not an option because of the historical bad blood.
Bani Walid decided to take their chances with fighters from Jadu, a town in the western mountains. The Jadu militia gained a good reputation for the way they liberated the south of the country almost without firing a shot.
“We believe in negotiating first and fighting only as a last resort,” says Omar Dougha of the Jadu brigade, who explains that things didn’t go as planned. “But then several thousand fighters from Zawiyah showed up uninvited. They forced our hand.”
Zawiyah fighters had a score to settle with the Warfalla. When the Qaddafi regime crushed the uprising in Zawiyah in March, Warfalla made up the bulk of the attacking force.
There are no signs of executions of Qaddafi supporters in Bani Walid. But like Sirte, the town was thoroughly destroyed and looted by the fighters from Zawiyah.
A huge graffiti mural in downtown Bani Walid spells it out in plain English: “Zawiyah are thugs.”
“We won the fight, but we won it in a bad way,” says Mr. Dougha.
The vengeance and arbitrary killings and arrests have many in Libya worried about what the future holds.
“I believe that if we don’t announce a general amnesty the country will never have peace,” says Dougha.
The anonymous activist evokes Iraq, where de-Baathification, a policy that banned all government employees associated with Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from future employment, helped spark a vicious civil war.
“I have spoken to many people from Sirte and Bani Walid who say: ‘If you cast us aside, if you make sure that our children will have no opportunities in the new Libya, then you leave us no other choice than to fight you.’ ” Why disarming is hard
Attempts to disarm the militias have failed miserably so far. Mr. Jibril’s call last month for the militias to surrender their weapons went unnoticed.
The new prime minister, Abdurrahim El-Keib, is an unknown figure who has spent much of his life abroad.
When Abdelhakim Belhadj, an Afghanistan veteran and the selfproclaimed leader of the military council of Tripoli, ordered the militia to leave Tripoli last month, the Zintan militia responded by issuing a warrant for Mr. Belhadj’s arrest.
“We are waiting for the right man in the right place,” says Kor of the Zintan Brigade.
Even the law-abiding Jadu Brigade is on the fence about disarming.
“It’s not that we don’t want to,” says Dougha, on his bed in one of the designer bungalows in the Rigatta compound.
Jadu and Zintan are close neighbors in the western mountains and also in Tripoli, where they each control half the beachfront compound.
Dougha points at a flier posted on the wall asking all Jadu fighters to prepare to leave Tripoli by Oct. 28, a date already three days in the past.
The problem, says Dougha, “is that we can’t disarm unless Zintan does the same.”
Jadu is a Berber town and Zintan is Arab. Three generations ago, Zintan fighters chased Jadu fighters from the area until they were able to fight their way back.
“We fought as brothers against Qaddafi, but we don’t entirely trust them. Zintan with heavy weapons and Jadu without weapons is simply not an option,” says Dougha.
Libyans Seek Secular Security Chief No Strong Islamist Ties Among List of Candidates to Handle Army, Militia
By MARGARET COKER
TRIPOLI—Top Libyan rebel commanders who toppled the Gadhafi regime have held secret meetings over the previous week to solve the thorny questions of who should lead a new national army and how to disarm the country's dizzying number of armed regional militias, according to four officials who attended the meetings.
No choice has yet been made about Libya's new defense leadership, these officials say. But, many of the approximately two dozen participants in these meetings have aligned around a short list of candidates without significant links to the country's Islamist fighting groups to lead the new armed forces and to fill the post of defense minister. Among the handful of names are a respected dissident ex-military officer and a controversial Libyan who lived in the U.S. and is believed to have close ties to American defense agencies.
This emerging bloc of like-minded commanders isn't looking to keep the Islamists from the military, but instead to limit their influence over the formation of the new security institutions. They want all fighters—regardless of ideology—to join a national command structure and help smooth conflicting loyalties.
"We don't want a Party of God here in Libya, like Lebanon or Afghanistan," Omar Salem el-Ghaied, the deputy head of the Misrata military council, said, referring to Hezbollah and the Taliban. "We want to build a state on normal, modern organizational terms. The best man for the job [of leading the national army] would be a man who is a patriot with skills and experience, not someone who counts how many times he prays each day."
Libya's rebel forces largely fought autonomously, not under a unified command, in the eight-month revolt against Moammar Gadhafi to free their respective regions from his control. Now, Libya's streets are awash with weapons but no working national institutions, and fears are mounting that the political struggle under way to control Libya's
transition could end in a new armed conflict among the hundreds of militias whose loyalties lay with their hometown or religious leader.
The recent military meetings reveal an emerging coalition between the nation's two strongest military powers—the port city of Misrata and the western area of Zintan—along with key militias within the capital that also is proving influential in the political realm.
This bloc has formed, in part, to curb the power of the Islamist militias that emerged mainly in Libya's eastern region during the early days of the revolt and that now identify with commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and veteran antiGadhafi fighter, according to two military commanders who attended the meetings and two politicians from these same regions.
This regional alliance flexed its political muscles earlier this week, when politicians representing these areas in the National Transitional Council teamed up to support Abdel-Rahim El Keib as the new interim prime minister, according to several officials familiar with the vote.
Mr. El Keib, a Tripoli-born and U.S.-trained engineer, won the job with 26 votes from the 52-member NTC body, narrowly beating a second candidate who was perceived to be closer to the Islamist factions, according to these officials.
Still, the military deliberations among Libya's commanders occurred amid a backdrop of ideological and regional tensions between the rebel fighting groups, especially in the capital, where Islamist-oriented militias, as well as groups from Misrata and Zintan, control key installations like the international airport, the military airport near the center of town and the commercial port.
These militias have opened their respective facilities for business, and they appear to be trying to burnish their nationalist credentials by showing how well they can run these facilities and keep the peace in the surrounding neighborhoods where hundreds of their fighters are based.
The presence of so many armed men, however, also has lead to street clashes and heightened regional animosity. For example, fighters from
Zintan sparked a three-hour firefight with a local militia outside Tripoli's main hospital earlier in the week. Four people also were wounded early Saturday when fighters from Zintan opened fire in a central Tripoli neighborhood, leading to a revenge shootout in the area the Zintanis occupy.
Fighters under the command of Mr. Belhaj's controversial military council, meanwhile, are arresting residents of the capital accused of working with the former regime, although it is unclear what legal mandate the fighters have to do so.
These types of clashes add to the fears that militias are slipping out of the control of their commanders, making the question of how to disarm the militias more pressing, says the head of the new National Security Council, Abdulmajid Seif el Nasser, a civilian who answers to the prime minister.
The commanders meetings, which have taken place in Benghazi, Brega and Tripoli, have covered a range of topics, from the ideal size of a new Libyan military, to the process of matriculating rebel fighters into its ranks, and how to train and create specialized divisions such as antiterrorist units, according to several participants.
The biggest issue has been the new unified command structure, according to these participants, with the rivalry between the Islamist groups and other factions proving particularly divisive. Several commanders have said they will not order their brigades to disarm until the leadership issue is solved, they say.
"There is no trust," says Hashem Bisher, the deputy head of the Tripoli Brigade, one of the largest fighting forces in the capital.
The regional alliance between the Misratans and the Zintanis and key groups from Tripoli have helped to shape the short list of candidates for top positions, none of whom appear to have overt Islamist ties, these officials say.
A leading front-runner to head the Defense Ministry is Khalifa Heftar, a controversial ex-Libyan military officer who spent more than 20 years in exile in the U.S. and is said to be close to the U.S.
intelligence and military agencies, according to three officials familiar with the discussions.
Commanders see the role of the ministry to lobby for budgetary funds to rebuild the armed forces, including building bases, establishing training institutes and procuring modern weapons.
The head of the national army, meanwhile, is widely expected to be a candidate from either Zintan or Misrata, according to several commanders.
From Zintan, a man touted as the best candidate to tackle the disarmament issue is Mukhtar al-Akhtar, a veteran ex-military officer and anti-Gadhafi leader credited with the military strategy that helped the rebels break the military stalemate in western Libya this summer and push forward to finally take Tripoli in August.
"He's a leader of men," says Ali Kouba, who is Mr. Akhtar's deputy and responsible for securing and operating Tripoli's international airport. "He was there on the front lines from the first day. He is respected enough to take the guns from the street."
Libya dispatch: as lawlessness spreads, are the rebel 'good guys' turning bad? Once welcomed as liberators, Libya's rebel fighters are beginning to outstay their welcome in Tripoli. By Nick Meo, Tripoli
1:44PM GMT 05 Nov 2011
Abdul Mojan's moment of realisation came when the good guys threw him into the boot of their car, slammed it shut and drove off with him a prisoner inside.
When they finally stopped and hauled him out, he asked them: "What are you doing? I'm a revolutionary just like you! I've never supported Gaddafi.'"
But the former rebels didn't care. They had taken a liking to the new office block in western Tripoli that Mr Mojan managed and they wanted the keys and ownership documents. He tried to reason with them, pointing out that there were plenty of government buildings standing empty.
To no avail, however. "We have sacrificed for this revolution and you haven't, and now we will take what we want," he was told by a cocky 18-year-old. "You can have the building back when the revolution is over."
A week later Mr Mojan was still incredulous as he recounted his tale to The Sunday Telegraph, admitting that he felt lucky to escape without a beating although there was nothing he could do about the 5,000 dinar (£2,550) they stole from his car.
Many of Tripoli's residents have had a similar moment of grim awakening in recent weeks. Their liberators, still swaggering around the city in Che Guevara-style berets and armed to the teeth, have not gone back to their home towns as they promised. Nor have they started handing in the guns they used to fight against Gaddafi, as they said they would.
"When they said Libya Free, they meant the cars, the refrigerators and the flat-screen television sets," runs one joke doing the rounds in Tripoli's cafes. Stories of gunmen taking expensive cars at checkpoints, giving receipts saying they will be returned after the revolution, are nervously swapped over cups of tea.
More alarming than the looting have been the armed clashes between militias. There have been three big fights in the capital alone in the
past week; shoot-outs at a hospital, Martyr's Square, and the military airport, which have left several dead and dozens wounded.
Then there are the detentions. With the fighting over, the revolutionaries have not been idle. They have kept busy rounding up hundreds of suspected Gaddafi supporters in a wide-scale witch-hunt, often on the basis of little more than rumour and accusation.
One man, a supporter of the revolution ago, described how his brother-in-law, gunmen from Misurata. They were acting the city, with whom Omar had a dispute
who was full of hope a month Omar, had been grabbed by for a wealthy businessman from several years ago.
"They came to his house and Omar went with them because he believed in the revolution and thought it was a misunderstanding that would soon be sorted out," the man said.
"But when they arrived in Misurata they threw him in their private prison and said they would beat the soles of his feet until he confessed. It is an old Turkish torture called the falakha. He was really scared, and he managed to escape by persuading one of them who felt uneasy about this to let him go.
"Next day they turned up at his house, and threatened his wife and children. Can you believe this? We have hundreds of little Gaddafis now.
"There is no one to stop them, and they are convinced that because they suffered in the war, they should be able to do what they like now. If it carries on like this I really fear for our revolution."
Libya's problems would not look so dangerous if there was a proper government in place to deal with them. Instead, more than two months since Gaddafi was driven from his capital, there is still a power vacuum. No government has been formed because former rebels cannot agree on how to share out power. The new prime minister, appointed last week, is a professor of electrical engineering originally from Tripoli who spent most of the last three decades at universities in Alabama and North Carolina - and was chosen because he offends nobody.
Abdul-Raheem al-Keeb has yet to prove that he isn't more suited to running a university department than a former dictatorship awash with guns and riven with tribal and regional rivalries.
With expectations sky-high, his inbox is daunting: he has to get the economy going, head off separatists in the east who are talking about setting up their own oil rich mini-state, disarm the increasingly arrogant militias, and organise Libya's first real elections.
He has been promised help from the West in building a democracy, yet so far there is little evidence of any. The United Nations presence has been kept deliberately small, at the request of the National Transitional Council. Only a trickle of aid workers have turned up, and experts in nation building with experience of Afghanistan and Iraq are notable by their absence.
"There is a deliberate effort to avoid the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq and not try to get foreigners in to micromanage everything," said one European Union diplomat last week. "And the Libyans are proud people, they don't want to look like a Third World nation needing a big foreign presence in here."
A handful of enterprising foreign businessmen have arrived looking for opportunities, drawn by the prospect of lucrative reconstruction contracts. "We've come way too early, there is no one to talk to yet," said a frustrated American who spent last week trying to set up meetings with representatives of a Libyan government which does not yet exist. "I will come back in the spring."
Many Libyans remain hopeful about the future of their revolution. Omar Khalifa, of the charity Libya Hurra, was arranging the distribution of sheep and money to 2,500 needy families for the festival of Eid this weekend.
"Of course people have suffered a lot in the past year," he said. "But the Libyans know they have to be patient, and that it will take a while to get back to normal."
Getting the militias out of the capital would help, but the leader of one notorious brigade told The Sunday Telegraph his men will stay for the time being.
"We are here to help build democracy and protect the revolution", said Mohammed al-Madhni, a commander in his fifties with a roguish grin.
His men, from the impoverished town of Zintan in the mountains south of Tripoli, were some of the most ferocious anti-Gaddafi fighters, but since the end of the war they have acquired a less savoury reputation for looting and starting fights.
The most colourful story told about them, not denied by Commander Madhni, is that Zintanis stole an elephant from Tripoli zoo as a trophy of war, taking the unfortunate beast back to their town in a truck.
They have taken up residence in the suburb of Regatta, a delightful district of palm trees and neat bungalows facing on to the blue Mediterranean. It was home to British and American oil workers and their families until they fled in February, as the revolution broke out.
Now the suburb has an eerie, deserted feeling. Doors and windows have been smashed so looters can get in, and the militias have spraypainted graffiti over walls. Only a few luxury cars are left, the ones with complicated security codes that make them difficult to steal and drive away. Several of those have had their wheels stolen.
"You could see them driving round in their pick-up trucks with big machine-guns going round the bungalows, picking up freezers and flatscreen televisions," said one of the witnesses to the Zintan fighters' looting spree.
People in Tripoli try to laugh about the mountain men – they are particularly amused that the Zintanis took jet-skis and fast boats back to their homes deep in the desert.
But there is also a fear that now the gunmen have a taste for power, and nobody to stop them, the post-Gaddafi future may be much more difficult than Libyans had hoped.
One formerly enthusiastic revolutionary, watching a group of young gunmen at a checkpoint, couldn't help being gloomy.
"You have to wonder, is this how failed states start out?" he said.
Militia warning as Libyan PM forms government
By Alastair Macdonald
TRIPOLI | Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:01pm EST
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A commander of Libyan former rebels has warned that his men could overthrow the incoming government if it fails to meet their demands for representation.
The credibility of the threat, made by Tripoli militia leader Abdullah Naker in a Reuters interview, was hard to assess in a city where the balance of forces, three months after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, is obscure and fluid.
Critics dismissed it as posturing. But it highlighted the tensions, and the high stakes, on Thursday as Abdurrahim El-Keib, the U.S.trained engineering professor nominated as interim prime minister by the National Transitional Council, tries to agree a cabinet line-up by a Tuesday deadline.
"We are still here on the ground and the final decision will be ours," said Naker, speaking late on Wednesday at his base in the headquarters of a state-owned construction company as some of the thousands of armed men he says he has at his disposal prepared for night-time security patrols in the city.
Demanding Keib appoint ministers who would represent the young rebels who ousted the old order, Naker, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council said his men would protest nationwide, peacefully "at first" if they did not like the new cabinet, as they did against Gaddafi.
"If we find we have the same dictatorship, we will respond in the same way," he said, showing off video of his men firing Grad missiles and driving Soviet-build T-72 tanks during the war. "It will not be an armed movement at first, but it might develop into that. There's a strong possibility that it will."
NTC officials and fighters from other units played down the influence wielded by Naker, an engineer from the mountain town of Zintan who vowed to return to civilian life once democracy and security were assured. But in a state with no police or army, forming a government to satisfy the competing interests of tens of thousands of armed men is a fraught process.
Outgoing prime minister Mahmoud Jibril has sounded an alarm about a "power vacuum" that may be exploited by armed groups.
Western and Middle Eastern diplomats in the capital tend to play down the risk of a sudden flare-up in violence - many of the armed former rebels are simply keen to see a government installed that will allow them to return to civilian life.
Many diplomats believe a competent cabinet will be formed next week, if not necessarily within the deadline, by Keib, who has won admirers among Libyans and foreigners for his apparent openness to compromise.
But as Keib himself has said, stable government will require bringing power into the hands of new security forces and disarming militias.
"Political power is really now in the hands of the militias," said George Joffe, a North Africa specialist at Cambridge University. "Keib ... is having to listen to a million different factions all saying they want a piece of the pie. Behind them stand the militias."
Keib has described Tuesday's deadline as a "soft constraint" - set at 30 days after the NTC declared all Libya "liberated" following Gaddafi's killing - and says his priority is to bring in competent technocrats to run the oil-rich state and organize elections by June to a constitutional assembly.
"The main thing is competence," he said last week, stressing the short shelf-life of the new government.
Yet with few political parties to speak of after 42 years of dictatorship but a host of local paramilitary units from across Libya staking claims to a share of power by their presence in the capital, those involved acknowledge that his cabinet must satisfy a complex balance of regional interests.
Among the trickiest tasks - notably in choosing ministers of defense and interior - may be satisfying demands from cities like Misrata, Benghazi and Zintan, which feel a keen sense of entitlement deriving from their roles in the war on Gaddafi.
Keib must also handle potentially vigorous opposition to figures seen as too close to the old regime, as well as rivalry between overtly secular leaders and Islamists viewed by their opponents as overly indebted to foreign backers, namely Qatar.
Though not alone in his objections, militia leader Naker placed particular emphasis on rejecting any role in government for Abdul
Hakim Belhadj, the Islamist and former Taliban ally in Afghanistan whom the NTC named as Tripoli military leader.
Belhadj himself dismisses suggestions that he and his ally, Qatarbased cleric Ali al-Sallabi, are agents of the Gulf state which poured military and humanitarian aid into the rebel camp, but their opponents remain unconvinced.
"We are really grateful to Qatar for what they did for the Libyan people," Naker said. But, describing the brand of Islam favored by Belhadj as unsuited to Libya's "moderate" religion, he added: "They have no right to interfere in our affairs. We will not accept domination by Qatar or by anyone else."
Figures close to the NTC - in the fluid environment of the change of government, channels of information are unclear - said they expected Keib to present a draft government list to the Council on Saturday or Sunday, though this might include many alternative choices for different ministries.
Officials and foreign diplomats said Keib seemed to have succeeded in keeping his preferences under wraps, while he faced lobbying from rival groups, notably regional militias, particularly over key ministries like defense and over the choice of a new chief-of-staff for the armed forces.
As Libya dithers, fighters take on security role Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:33pm GMT
By Oliver Holmes
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - At the Mellitah Oil & Gas facility, a joint venture between Italy's oil major Eni and the Libyan national oil company, fighters from the mountain city of Zintan stand guard.
Deep in the Sahara desert, 700 km south, another brigade of fighters from Zintan -- a city which prides itself as being one of the first to rise up against Muammar Gaddafi -- say they are securing the Akakus oil field in the absence of a national army.
Some of the fighters who ousted Gaddafi are not prepared to wait for their interim government to form a cabinet and begin the long task of rebuilding a functioning state. They are doing it for themselves.
Armed militias are acting as a pseudo-police force: setting up road checkpoints, directing traffic and arresting those they regard as criminals.
Groups of fighters from Misrata, 190 km to the east of the capital, have joined some Tripoli brigades to guard the naval base where several military ships that escaped the bombing by NATO during the war are docked.
At the Akakus field, fighters are positioned around the main facility, armed with heavy machine guns and rockets.
"The protection of this field is by Zintani fighters to prevent looting," said one guard at the gate to the field, which stands in a vast expanse of sandy desert.
All of the militias claim loyalty to the National Transitional Council (NTC), which promises to lead Libya towards participatory democracy, but also to the clans, towns or regions from which they hail.
Fighters give different reasons for not handing in their weapons and returning home.
Some say they are being paid by their commanders or are worried that a pro-Gaddafi insurgency will break out while the country is still weak. Others say they have a moral commitment to serve Libya, even unofficially.
But there are suggestions the militias also want to wield political leverage over the emerging government.
STARTING AN AIR FORCE
While officials hold secret meetings in Tripoli to decide on highlevel positions, Colonel Abdullah al-Mehdi is trying to get the air force back in the air.
"People are crossing the border illegally from Niger and Mali. They are smuggling drugs and attacking oil fields to steal cars and equipment," Mehdi, from Zintan, told Reuters as he flew his favourite aeroplane from Gaddafi's defunct Libyan air force, a twin-engined Russian military transporter.
"We need to position planes at airports around the country to patrol the border." He said he intends to move some fighter jets from the capital to the border town of Ghadames and the southern desert city of Sabha.
"Two jets here, three there," the 49-year-old said.
Shouting over the roar of propellers, Mehdi says he has been transporting fighters and weapons to Libya's borderlands and worked as an air ambulance.
And more frequently now that the eight-month civil war has ended, he has ferried representatives of the interim government around the country to aid the reconciliation with tribes who fought for Gaddafi.
"I also run a prison," he added. Who Mehdi is working for is unclear - both the defence and interior ministers are yet to be appointed -but he collaborates with the Tripoli Military Council, the armed wing of the NTC.
"What ministry, I am the ministry," Mehdi said, a broad smile emerging under his thick, greying moustache.
With Gaddafi gone, Mehdi wants to reach out to the leaders of neighbouring Mali and Chad to deal with drugs and weapons smuggling, before taking a holiday in Russia.
Libya’s Islamists Ransack Mosque Graves in Power Struggle November 17, 2011, 11:29 AM EST
By Christopher Stephen
(Updates with presentation of Cabinet in 13th paragraph, comment by government spokesman in 14th.)
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan gunmen broke into the Saif al-Nasr mosque in Tripoli early on Nov. 8, smashed open a wooden sarcophagus and removed the remains of Saif al-Nasr, a scholar who died 155 years ago, and a former imam, Hammad Zwai.
“These bodies have been moved to a Muslim cemetery,” announced graffiti on the walls, explaining the disapproval by some Islamists of the Sufi Muslim tradition of burying scholars and teachers in mosques to honor them.
Muslims pushing for a strict interpretation of Islamic law are jostling for power in the chaos that has gripped Libya since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, the third North African leader after those in Egypt and Tunisia to fall in the Arab Spring.
Last month protesters holding signs proclaiming “We Are Here to Purify the Honor of Tripoli” forced the early closure of the capital’s first fashion show since Qaddafi’s 42-year rule in Tripoli ended in August.
“I was scared; I wiped off my makeup and went home,” said Jasmin Abdul Aziz, a 22-year-old student who was one of five models at the event and once paraded a $5,000 dress studded with diamonds in a Qaddafi-era fashion show. “Before, we would wear shorts in the streets. Now, look around you, nobody does.”
The man responsible for maintaining security in the city is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military Council and former Guantanamo Bay inmate. The council doesn’t regard the mosque break-ins as a crime and is awaiting the formation of a religious council to rule on the matter, according to his deputy, Mohammed Goaider.
‘Not A Crime’
“It is not a crime, but it is not the right time for the bodies to be removed,” Goaider said in an interview. If the religious council issues a fatwa, an Islamic religious edict, demanding the removal of the bodies, security units will do the work, he said.
Belhaj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which opposed Qaddafi in the 1990s and is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. After joining the Taliban in Aghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he was captured and held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 before being sent to Libya, where he spent seven years in a prison until his release last year.
“We are 99 percent Muslim,” said Emhemmed Ghula of the February 17th Coalition, a prominent political group that supports Belhaj. “Our country is a conservative country.”
Tripoli is still controlled by a patchwork of militias, with the National Transitional Council unable to impose its authority over regional military bodies such as the Tripoli Military Council.
“These are all troubling signs for all those who wanted a secular Libya,” Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said in a phone interview. “Libya is a conservative country, so some amount of that is to be expected, but desecrating graves and closing down fashion shows encroaches on freedoms.”
The NTC says a new constitution, which will be drafted by a panel elected by June, must have Islamic law, or Sharia, as its “principal” source.
Acting Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib is due to present his Cabinet on Nov. 20 to the NTC. Among the groups vying for posts are the Freedom, Justice and Development party, which says it is modelled on the moderate Islamic AKP party that has governed Turkey since November 2002, and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which says it is secular.
“The civil state that we yearn for, there is no conflict with that and Sharia as the source of legislation,” NTC spokesman Abdel Hafez Ghoga told reporters on Nov. 15.
How Sharia will be interpreted remains uncertain until the constitution is drafted, and in the meantime tensions between secular and Islamist groups are surfacing in all spheres.
“We are still in the midst of Libya thrashing out its new institutions,” Joshi said. “There will be a long period of instability in which these things will continue. As long as it can remain peaceful, it’s OK.”
At a five-day conference being held in Tripoli’s Radisson Blu Al Mahary Hotel, women’s groups from across the country voiced fears about their rights.
“If they apply Sharia, everything will be good. It is a system to organize society,” Aya Blaou, a Tripoli medical student, said in an interview. “What I am afraid about is that Sharia rules are used against us.”
Belhaj’s supporters insist that Islam must be respected, and say that they support democracy.
“Belhaj wields power on the streets, but he also feels marginalized by the NTC,” Joshi said. “Even if the NTC doesn’t control the streets of Tripoli, they are still in charge. He wants to be part of that.”
The Tripoli Council, the city’s civilian administration, opposes the vandalism at the mosques, according to council leader Abdulrezaq Abuhjaar. Yet it’s powerless to act because it doesn’t control security forces, he said.
“We are not happy about this, it is not right,” Abuhjaar said in an interview. “Disturbing the dead is harming the living. It is a crime that the law punishes.”
Sufi militiamen are now guarding the remaining mosques in Tripoli, including the Sha’b Mosque, home to the body of a revered scholar, Abdul Sahfi, which is interred in a large stone sarcophagus.
Threat of Violence
“Those who break these stones, they are following al- Qaeda,” said Mohammed Abdulla, one of several armed uniformed fighters guarding the mosque. “We will not let them in.”
Women in Tripoli are feeling the heaviest burden to conform. They have been under pressure to dress conservatively since Qaddafi’s downfall, Abdul Aziz said.
She blamed Belhaj and his insistence on a strict interpretation of Islam, and warned that violence may break out if he continued the policy.
“The young people will not allow it,” she said. “We have to have a new revolution.”
--With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Karl Maier, Heather Langan, Ben Holland
Mali: Algeria, US Urge Firmer Stance Against AQIM Presence; US Trains Troops
AFP20111125636015 Abidjan Fraternite Matin in French 23 Nov 11 p 2
[Commentary by Sylvain Namoya: "Al-Qaida: More Than Lip Service"]
The Al-Qa'ida threat is real because it is present in the northern and northwestern regions of our Malian neighbor. However, the tragedy is that Mali, which is preparing for its presidential election in 2012, given Toumani's departure from the country's leadership (he has reached the end of his term), is far from manifesting any firm will in the fight against AQIM [Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb]. Even such countries as the United States are reproaching it for its lukewarm stance.
In addition to the United States, Algeria, which shares a border with Mali, is not happy with the latter either. Its principal complaint has to do with Mali's release, in February 2010, of four AQIM terrorists, two of them Algerians, in exchange for the French [hostage] Pierre Camatte. This "leniency" provoked discontent in Algiers, and relations between the two countries took a hit.
In order to reassure his neighbors and the international community about his determination to drive AQIM from his territory and dissipate any misunderstanding, Amadou Toumani Toure just paid a "friendly" visit to Algeria. In late October, according to Le Jeune Afrique, he took delivery of the following from Obama's country: "44 pickups, 18 trucks, six ambulances, 17 Harris radios mounted on vehicles, 24 other portable [radio]s, tactical telephones, and data transmission software, plus military binoculars, sniper sights, and night-vision equipment. The total cost: 4.5 billion CFA francs."
[Colonel] Kelly Alexander, commanding officer of AFRICOM's Operation Enduring Freedom in the Trans Sahara, states that: "Since 2006, we have trained a thousand Malian soldiers as part of the fight against AQIM. This training includes shooting, patrolling, coordination of movement on the ground using vehicles, and communications."
Above and beyond mere words, these are actions that should inspire many countries that want to fight terrorism. Only coordinated action taken by the different countries and based on suitable means of communication will be able to drive international terrorism from African soil and reassure its peoples.
[Description of Source: Abidjan Fraternite Matin in French -- Stateowned, government-controlled daily with the widest circulation]
French Expert Warns of Dangerous 'Afghanization' of Sahel Region
EUP20111130029017 Paris LeMonde.fr in French 30 Nov 11
[Commentary by Serge Michailof, professor at Paris' Sciences Po University and adviser to the World Bank: "Worrying Afghanization of the Sahel'"]
The kidnapping of two of our fellow countrymen on Thursday 24 November, this time in Mali, near Mopti, follows a series of kidnappings of foreign nationals in Niger in September 2010 and in January 2011. It highlights the deterioration of the security situation in these areas, which tourists and NGOs could visit entirely confidently until recently. Do these kidnappings mean that the northern Sahel is on the way to Afghanization, as the Algerian daily, El Watan said in 2010? Are we dealing with a new kind of banditry in which Western nationals have become a highly prized prey, like ships off the coast of Somalia? Bamako, where a new class of young entrepreneurs is now becoming established, is certainly not Kabul; fortunately, none of the countries of the region plays the destabilizing role that Pakistan does in Afghanistan. But this parallel with Afghanistan must not be treated lightly. Indeed, in both instances the shortcomings of the state apparatus in regions where strong irredentism has long manifested itself have prompted the emergence and then the spread of gray areas, where central government can no longer exercise its sovereign functions. In both instances, the spread of these gray areas is accelerated by a Malthusian crisis caused by the growing gap between resources and population. In both instances, trafficking of all kinds is developing in response to youth unemployment and the absence of alternatives.
In Afghanistan, poppy farming, which is extremely profitable, is the logical response to an agrarian crisis caused in the mountain valleys by the destruction of traditional irrigation systems. This is one consequence of the "war of the Soviets," and then of the lack of maintenance and the neglect on the part of donors.
Within the context of a very large population, the return of 4 million emigres to Pakistan has caused an overflow since 2002. The Taliban's recovery of control is first and foremost the result of the total absence of the states -- that is of the judiciary and the police -- in rural areas. It is also a response to the agrarian crisis and to the need to protect activities linked to opium trafficking, which is the only solution whereby people can extricate themselves from poverty.
So we must beware of the sub-Saharan zones. These zones have already -- as a result of drought, the absence of the state, and the lack of economic alternatives for young people -- become lawless areas prey to trafficking of all kinds -- Latin American cocaine on its way to Europe, as revealed by the case of the Boeing destroyed in 2009 on a secret landing strip in Mali, having been unable to take off after unloading its cargo; the smuggling of gasoline, cigarettes, and consumer goods to exploit price differentials, subsidies, and custom tariffs between Algeria and its neighboring countries; the traffic in cars stolen from Europe and sold in all the coastal countries; and the traffic in illegal migrant workers on their way to the countries of the Gulf and Europe.
The war in Libya has caused the return to the Sahel of tens of thousands of workers now without jobs and suspected of collusion with the Libyan Army. It is also causing the influx of large numbers of weapons. However, beyond this particularly disinherited sub-Saharan area, we can also wonder about the long-term viability of countries with very small agricultural potential, such as Niger, whose population is exploding: having been 4 million at the time of independence in 1960, it is 16 million now and will be 58 million by 2050, according to demographers.
So it does not much matter that Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM,) the avatar of Algeria's Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC,) does not amount to much in military terms: perhaps some one hundred scattered combatants and a few hundred active sympathizers? It does not much matter whether those responsible for kidnapping our fellow countrymen are mafia gangs acting, or not, on AQIM's behalf. Be that as it may, they are firebrands riding on a powder keg! In such a context, let us learn the lessons of the West's disaster in Afghanistan. First, let us recognize that a security approach not based on the reconstruction of national sovereign institutions and the building of democratic local government institutions is bound to fail.
Second, that major development programs are indispensable in order to hope to stabilize the zones close to the gray areas; however, such programs are all the more difficult to implement inasmuch as the subSaharan economy, based on transhumant pastoralism and small-scale oasis agriculture, has largely collapsed, natural conditions are difficult, technical solutions are sometimes uncertain, and the populations are dispersed across very wide areas.
However, difficult does not mean impossible. The agronomic researchers and development agencies that have studied these regions for the past half century have formulated many proposals for boosting the agricultural and pastoral development of arid regions. It is possible to organize a return of water by means of land reform based on terracing, reforestation, and the excavation of temporary reservoirs.
Technical training in basic construction and engineering skills would enable young people in these regions, where large-scale regional emigration is in any case inevitable, to escape degrading little jobs as water carriers of guards that they perform in the cities of the South. France, whose expertise in the development of these regions is acknowledged, could usefully lead multilateral external partnerships, whose funding is essential in this field. In order to do so it must have, like the British in other regions, a consistent cooperation policy and appropriate financial instruments. But that is another story...
[Description of Source: Paris LeMonde.fr in French -- Website of Le Monde, leading center-left daily; URL: http://www.lemonde.fr]
Al-Qaeda's North Africa branch says got Libya weapons
(AFP) – 1 hour ago
NOUAKCHOTT — Al-Qaeda's North Africa franchise acknowledged it had acquired part of slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi's arsenal, in comments by one of its leaders quoted Wednesday.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believed to be one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), made the remarks to Mauritanian news
agency ANI, which has carried interviews and statements from the group in the past.
"We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," said Belmokhtar, an Algerian national.
"As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing," he said, without elaborating on the nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.
Officials and experts have expressed concern that part of Kadhafi's considerable stock of weapons could end up in the hands of AQIM, which has bases in the Sahel and currently holds several foreign hostages.
According to several experts, AQIM has acquired surface-to-air missiles which could pose a threat to flights over the region.
Belmokhtar also claimed a level of ideological convergence existed between his movement and the Islamist rebels who eventually toppled Kadhafi last month and became Libya's new rulers.
"We did not fight, alongside them in the field against the Kadhafi forces," he said. "But young Islamists, jihadis... were the ones spearheading the revolution in Libya."
The National Transitional Council now in charge of Libya owes its victory over Kadhafi's 42-year rule partly to Western military backing and claims to seek the establishment of a moderate Islamic administration.
Rival Libyan rebel commanders beat chests Photo Fri, Nov 18 2011
By Oliver Holmes
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's incoming prime minister Abdelrahim al-Keib is to announce his cabinet in coming days and former rebel factions who fought to oust Muammar Gaddafi are jostling to influence who will get the top posts in the new defense forces.
Although few have publicly announced they want the defense minister and army chief of staff positions, shows of chest-beating by commanders and their entourages are a clear sign that factions want to sway the new prime minister.
At a horse-racing track near the seafront in Tripoli, a parade of ragtag fighters marched past a VIP delegation with Tripoli's Islamist military commander for the National Transitional Council (NTC), Abdel Hakim Belhadj, sitting at the front.
"We must build a national army ... to rebuild the country. We have to build the country again," Belhadj told the crowd of fighters, women and children who had been ferried into the area to wave flags and celebrate the liberation of Libya.
A fighter jet swooped by and parachutists landed in front of the podium to roars of applause.
"We hope that Keib can form a strong government," Belhadj said in a speech, emphasizing the need for former rebels to have a place in the new government.
The NTC has endorsed Belhadj as the official military commander in Tripoli and justice minister Mohammed al-Allagi sat next to him throughout the parade.
Although stating that he does not want an immediate role as defense minister, Belhadj - who says he controls 25,000 fighters - might be eyeing a political position in the future.
"I want to serve my nation with all the power and ability I can offer, but to choose where and how, it is too early to talk about this now," he told Reuters in an interview last week.
On the same day as Belhadj's victory march, fighters loyal to Abdullah Naker, a competing Tripoli-based commander and head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council, spent the evening going through drafts of a press release that was a public refusal to acknowledge Belhadj as the principal voice of Libya's fighters.
Men in military fatigues scurried around a 20-foot table, talking excitedly about their demands from Keib's government.
"Injured fighters must be looked after," one commander shouted over the buzz of discussion in the business center of a 5-star hotel. "The army chief of staff position must be filled by someone who saw combat during the revolution."
Naker's men say Belhadj did not fight on the front lines during the war but suddenly appeared in the media spotlight when Tripoli fell to the revolutionary forces in late August.
Naker claims he has up to 20,000 fighters and rejects a role for Belhadj in the new government, and has warned that his men could overthrow the incoming government if it fails to meet their demands for representation.
International actors hope that the militias will be disbanded and incorporated into a national army but many groups, including Naker's, have a wait-and-see approach to disarming.
Some observers dismiss Naker's threat as posturing, but it represents how Keib, a U.S.-trained engineering professor, will have to juggle the demands of disparate factions who say they feel entitled to have a say over how the military will be run.
The NTC's first military commander, Abdel Fattah Younes, was assassinated in July in what some speculate was an internal rebel feud, highlighting the sensitivity of top military roles.
This week, a gathering of officers in the eastern city of al-Baida publicly nominated Gaddafi-defector Major General Khalifa Heftah as chief of staff of the national army, formally submitting his application to the NTC.
Naker told reporters on Thursday the nomination of Heftah was premature and demanded that nominations be postponed until after the interim government is formed.
"We were not consulted about the nomination of a chief of staff. We are competent, but they did not give us the chance to put forward our own candidates," Naker said late on Thursday.
Fawzi Abu Katif, the current Islamist deputy defense minister who led troops in fighting in the east, is often mentioned as someone who might take the minister of defense position.
Members of Belhadj's brigades are already referring to themselves the national army even though an army is yet to be formed and most former rebel factions have not disbanded or handed over their weapons, a worrying sign that political power is still in the hands of the militias.
Algerian Terrorist Leader Belmokhtar on Libyan Weapons, Funding, Plot
GMP20111110280001 Algiers Le Temps d'Algerie Online in French 09 Nov 11
[Report by A. R.: "Refuting the Claim He Has Negotiated With the Authorities to Surrender: Mokhtar Belmokhtar States that Al-Qa'ida Has Libyan Weapons"]
The founder of the "Amirate of the Sahara," Mokhtar Belmokhtar, known by the name Abou Abbas, has stated that the terrorist elements active in the Sahel area acquired Libyan weapons during the revolution.
In an interview with a Mauritanian daily, Nouvelles de Nouakchott, he said he thought that "this acquisition was quite normal," but, on the other hand, he denied his organization's having taken part in the combat operations against Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi's forces.
The same source defended the operations carried out by his organization with the goal of acquiring public funds at the port of Nouakchott and several government cars. As part of this, he added "the system has all of these funds and the population only gets crumbs."
In the same interview, he acknowledged the existence of a conflict between him and the man who succeeded him heading up the terrorist organization, emphasizing that he contested the diversity ruled by the "morality and ethic of Islam" that is the result of different perceptions and the understanding of each and every person according to his circumstances and his experience.
He also denied the news reports telling of any sort of negotiation begun with the security agencies in Algeria with the goal of handing himself over, all the while insisting on his conviction of continuing to launch terrorist operations.
Regarding the relationships with Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan, Abou Abbas let it be known that Abou Yunus from Mauritanian, who is currently being held in Pakistan, had been the first direct communications link between the two organizations, adding that, starting in the year 2000, he had personally supervised the communications designed to unite his organization with Al-Qa'ida.
More explicitly, he suggested that he was not at all against that support, as made public during that period.
Abou Abbas also announced the release of Omar El Sahraoui, who has been held in a Mauritanian prison, as part of an agreement reached for the release of the Spanish hostages. He also revealed his organization's having been taken hostage by those whom he described as spies who came from the Mauritanian security agencies. According to him, their confessions had been recorded to be disseminated later on the Internet.
Abou Abbas revealed that the organization had tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in Nouakchott. That operation was conducted by elements affiliated with his organization in February 2000. According to his statements, the Nouakchott case, which had been scheduled by the organization for the month of February 2011, resulted in the explosion of one of the booby-trapped cars on the periphery of the capital city and the requisition of another one in the south of the country.
Those acts were behind the Mauritanian president's decision to withdraw his troops from northern Mali, emphasizing that the two booby-trapped cars had targeted the assassination of the Mauritanian president and France's ambassador in Nouakchott.
[Description of Source: Algiers Le Temps d'Algerie Online in French -Website of publication which describes itself as a "national daily newspaper"; URL: http://www.letempsdz.com]