Attacks throughout the Middle East, as the U.S. and NATO forces continue to pursue key entities in the global terror network, have fettered al-Qaida’s ability to maintain strongholds in Pakistan, leading the organization to search for opportunities to expand throughout the Arabian peninsula, the Washington Examiner reports.
Many have raised concerns that the NATO-facilitated unrest in Libya will create a power vacuum in the country that the terrorist organization will silently fill.
“The idea of global jihad is alive and thriving as the Arab Spring turns violent," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and senior adviser to three U.S. Presidents on the Middle East said in the article.
Unrest in Tripoli continues, with news of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi defeated one day and making military gains the next as a violent NATO-backed rebel insurrection continues, and there are now reports that former al-Qaida members have gained high level positions in the country.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on Saturday announced that a Military Council would be formed in order to protect a fledgling rebel government. Heading up this council will be Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the former head of the al-Qaida-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was banned internationally as a terrorist organization after the 9/11 attacks.
Asharq Al Awsat, an Arabic newspaper, produced an article about Belhadj in August entitled “From Holy Warrior to Hero of a Revolution.”
It is reported that Belhadj is just one of about 1,000 members of the radical Islamic group, which has been under CIA and British Intelligence scrutiny for the past two decades, and has been a major benefactor in the overthrow of Gadhafi and the destabilization of his country. In March, members of the LIFG apparently announced that they had placed themselves under the leadership of the NATO-affiliated NTC, and that the group had changed its name from the LIFG to the friendlier moniker, Libyan Islamic Movement.
In a recent interview that was reprinted by Time, Belhadj denied any “ideological” ties to al-Qaida, but admitted to fighting alongside the terror cell in Afghanistan. In 2004 he was reportedly arrested by the CIA, detained as a terrorist and thrown into a Libyan prison after being tortured by U.S. officials. The Gadhafi regime liberated him from the prison in 2010.
It remains unclear whether the Libyan Islamist Movement favors the establishment of an Islamic State in Libya — which would allow al-Qaida opportunities to move freely, plan and headquarter in the country — or if they support Sharia law.