As the military intervention continues in Libya, questions are being raised about the leaders of the rebellion and their close ties to the Jihadist movement.
As early as Thursday 24th February, Reuters was reporting that :
Al Qaeda’s North African wing has condemned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and expressed solidarity with protesters revolting against his rule, the SITE Intelligence Group quoted it as saying on Thursday.1
By March 25th, editor of CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn was digging a little deeper:
[But] to whom exactly are the interveners lending succor? There’s been great vagueness here, beyond enthusiastic references to the romantic revolutionaries of Benghazi, and much ridicule for Qaddafi’s identification of his opponents in eastern Libya as Al Qaida.
In fact two documents strongly back Qaddafi on this issue. The first is a secret cable to the State Department from the US embassy in Tripoli in 2008, part of the Wikileaks trove, entitled Extremism in Eastern Libya which revealed that this area is rife with anti-American, pro-jihad sentiment.
According to the cable, the most troubling aspect
“… is the pride that many eastern Libyans, particularly those in and around Dernah, appear to take in the role their native sons have played in the insurgency in Iraq … [and the] ability of radical imams to propagate messages urging support for and participation in jihad.”
Also on March 25th, we can read a report in The Telegraph, which is itself based on an interview by the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, in which Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admits :
…he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.
The same article concludes:
British Islamists have also backed the rebellion, with the former head of the banned al-Muhajiroun proclaiming that the call for “Islam, the Shariah and jihad from Libya” had “shaken the enemies of Islam and the Muslims more than the tsunami that Allah sent against their friends, the Japanese”.3