Jihadi with ties to al Qaeda leads new Tripoli Military Counsel


Islamists have played an important part in the uprising against Col Muammar Gaddafi, sparking concern about what role they will play in the new Libya, writes Middle East analyst Omar Ashour.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj spearheaded the attack on Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, but the commander of the newly-formed Tripoli Military Council is raising red flags in the West.

Mr Belhaj - known in the jihadi world as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq - is the former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a jihadist organisation with historical links to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the al-Jihad organisation in Egypt.

Established in 1990, the LIFG led a three-year low-level insurgency mainly based in eastern Libya, and staged three attempts to assassinate Col Gaddafi in 1995 and 1996. By 1998, the group was crushed.

Mr Belhaj spent time in the notorious Abu Salim Prison, before being freed in 2010 under a "de-radicalisation" drive championed by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, mostly for the benefit of audiences in the West.


The close co-operation between Mr Belhaj and Libya's interim rebel leadership - the National Transitional Council (NTC) - has heightened fears in the West about the possible rise of Islamist fighters within in its ranks.

Concerns had already surfaced following the unexplained killing in July of the rebels' military commander, Abdel Fattah Younes, after he was taken into custody by his own side for questioning.

There is much more.

What role these guys play will determine how much help the new government gets and from whom they get it. Iran has been supporting some elements in the rebels and may try to push its agenda. I do not trust people who have shown such poor judgment in the past.


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