Will Al Qaeda Take Over Libya?
Various news reports indicate that Islamic terror group al-Qaeda is active among rebel groups fighting Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, and may take over the country if their rebellion is successful.
The strongest indication of al-Qaeda activity among rebel groups comes from The UK Telegraph, which quotes the Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admitting that “around 25” of his men once fought under the Islamic terrorist’s banner against coalition troops in Iraq.
Quoting an interview al-Hasidi gave to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the rebel leader said he battled “the foreign invasion” in Afghanistan before “captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan.” He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.
Insisting his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” al-Hasidi told the paper that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
The interview follows a report from Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno, who told the African weekly Jeune Afrique that he is “100-percent sure” that al-Qaeda forces have stolen a number of surface-to-air missiles from compounds in southern Libya.
“The militants of al Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere,” a desert region of the Sahara that stretches from northeast Niger to western Chad, Deby said in the interview. “This is very serious. AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] is becoming a genuine army, the best equipped in the region,” he said.
Deby backs claims made by Colonel Gaddafi and his son that Islamic radicals, including al-Qaeda, are secretly working to support a rebel victory.
“There is a partial truth in what he says,” Deby said. “Up to what point? I don’t know. But I am certain that AQIM took an active part in the uprising.”
Gaddafi, vilified for his anti-Western rhetoric and alleged ordering of Pan Am Flight 103 to be bombed, had actually been helping coalition forces in combating radical Islamic terror groups, reports FOX News. He has also publicly spoken out against them.
Branding the group members as ‘bad Muslims’, Gaddafi said, “The security forces found a mosque in al-Zawiya. In a mosque! Weapons, alcohol, and their corpses – all mixed up together.”
According to a 2007 report published by the West Point Military Academy, “both Darnah and Benghazi have long been associated with Islamic militancy in Libya,” and Colnel Gaddafi spilled a lot of blood in Benghazi to quell an Islamic rebellion during the 1990’s.
US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz hedged his bets when he described the AQIM as a “danger to the region,” but insisted that Gaddafi might be overplaying the threat for selfish reasons
“It’s clearly a card that he thinks he might be able to get some benefit of,” Cretz said. “It’s patently ridiculous. But do we have concerns about AQIM? Certainly, we do.”