Members of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – LIFG, are in control of the former strongholds of Muammar Qaddafi captured by Libyan rebels last Sunday, Aug. 21, debkafile reports from sources in Libya. They are fighting under the command of Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan whom the CIA captured in Malaysia in 2003 and extradited six years later to Libya where Qaddafi held him in prison.
Belhadj is on record as rejecting any political form of coexistence with the Crusaders excepting jihad.
His brigades were the principal rebel force in the operation for the capture of Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya ruling compound on Aug. 23. Saturday, Aug. 27, those brigades overran the Abu Salim district of southern Tripoli taking it from the last pro-Qaddafi holdouts in the city. Many of the prisoners released from the local jail belonged to al Qaeda.
The LIFG chief now styles himself "Commander of the Tripoli Military Council." Asked by our sources whether they plan to hand control of the Libyan capital to the National Transitional Council, which has been recognized in the West, the jihadi fighters made a gesture of dismissal without answering.
According to US and British media, at least half of the members of the NTC have moved from Benghazi to Tripoli, the key condition for the receipt of Qaddafi's frozen assets and international aid. But there is no confirmation from our sources that this has happened. Tripoli is rife with disorder, awash with weapons and prey to reciprocal allegations of atrocities. Our sources doubt that the council will be able to assert control of – or even a presence in – Tripoli any time soon. US intelligence sources in Tripoli see no sign that the NTC will be able to persuade the Islamist brigades to relinquish control of the city in the near future – or even lay down arms.
Those arms are advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, said a senior American source. Had those NATO contingents not led the Tripoli operation, the rebels unaided would not have captured Qaddafi's centers of government.
A week after that dramatic episode, Tripoli's institutions of government have wound up in the hands of fighting Islamist brigades belonging to al Qaeda, who are now armed to the teeth with the hardware seized from Qaddafi's arsenals. No Western or Libyan military force can conceive of dislodging the Islamists from the Libyan capital in the foreseeable future.
Libya has thus created a new model which can only hearten the Islamist extremists eyeing further gains from the Arab Revolt. They may justly conclude that NATO will come to their aid for a rebellion to topple any autocratic Arab ruler. The coalition of British, French, Qatari and Jordanian special forces, with quiet US intelligence support, for capturing Tripoli and ousting Qaddafi, almost certainly met with US President Barack Obama's approval.
For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.
An attempt to vindicate the way this NATO operation has turned out is underway. Western media are being fed portrayals of the rebel leadership as a coherent and responsible political and military force holding sway from Benghazi in the east up to the Tunisian border in the west.
This depiction is false. Our military sources report that the bulk of rebel military strength in central and western Libya is not under NTC command, nor does it obey orders from rebel headquarters in Benghazi.
This chaotic situation in rebel ranks underscores the importance of the effort the NTC has mounted to capture Sirte, Qaddafi's home town, where most of his support is concentrated. Control of Sirte, which lies between Benghazi and Tripoli, will provide the NTC and its leader Abdul Jalil, with a counterweight for the pro-Al Qaeda brigades in control of the capital.