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US confirms al Qaeda members’ role in rebel command

DebkaFile [1]
Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Obama administration finally acknowledged Wednesday, Aug. 31 that al Qaeda elements had been fighting in Libyan rebel ranks in last week’s capture of Tripoli. This came about in a cautious remark from the office of President Barack Obama’s terrorism adviser John Brennan: “Some members of the LIFG [Al Qaeda’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group offshoot] in the past had connections with al Qaeda in Sudan, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Others dropped their relationship with al Qaeda entirely. It seems from their statements and support for establishing a democracy in Libya that this faction of LIFG does not support al Qaeda. We’ll definitely be watching to see whether this is for real or just for show.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources revealed Sunday, Aug. 28 that LIFG fighters had fought in the rebel capture of Tripoli on Sunday Aug. 21. Their commander, Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, a veteran al Qaeda fighter from Afghanistan later extradited to Libya and held in prison there, had led the battle for the Qaddafi stronghold of Bab al-Aziziya two days later and has since proclaimed himself Commander of the Tripoli Military Council.

This confronts the US administration with the sole choice of accepting this fait accompli, especially after American reporters discovered in Muammar Qaddafi’s abandoned intelligence headquarters files attesting to the former Libyan ruler’s campaign against Al Qaeda’s Libyan recruits and outside infiltrators. Those files contained a map charting the day to day movements of al Qaeda and other extremist Muslim operatives in the country and their current addresses.

They also found documentary evidence of the close reciprocal ties Qaddafi maintained with Western counter-terror agencies, sharing with them the data his agencies gathered on al Qaeda movements.
Until now, President Barack Obama dismissed Qaddafi’s warnings that the rebellion which broke out against him in February would open the door for al Qaeda to seize power in Libya.

Our intelligence and counter-terror sources find the Brennan statement from the White House raised more questions than it answered:

1. Nothing was said about Washington’s reaction should the LIFG turn out in the future to pursue al Qaeda’s political, religious and terrorist agenda “for real” and not “just for show.” Will the US accept the LIFG commander Belhadj’s role as commander of Tripoli or take action to remove him? And what if its leaders are shown to be working closely with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb – AQIM?

Full story here. [1]