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Al Qaeda in the New Libya

by John Reed on October 28, 2011

Well, this sure is interesting. Hipster-ey magazine/website, Vice, is doing some firsthand reporting on ‘the new Libya’ that seems to confirm Western concerns about hard core Islamists and members of al Qaeda hijacking the movement to build a new Libya.

Vice reporter Sherif Elhelwa, penned this article showing what may be the al Qaeda flag flying alongside the National Transitional Council’s flag over the courthouse in Benghazi that was long the seat of the rebel movement.

Keep in mind that this is Vice; they admit they’re not trying to be the New York Times or Wall Street Journal with their journalistic standards, so we’ll take the reporting with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, here’s what Elhelwa writes about post-Gadhafi libya:

Earlier this week, I went to the Benghazi courthouse and confirmed the rumors: an al Qaeda flag was clearly visible; its Arabic script declaring that “there is no God but Allah” and a full moon underneath. When I tried to take pictures, a Salafi-looking guard, wearing a green camouflage outfit, rushed towards me and demanded to know what I was doing. My response was straightforward: I was taking a picture of the flag. He gave me an intimidating look and hissed, “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue. I recommend that you don’t publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself.”

He followed me inside the courthouse, but luckily my driver Khaled was close by, and interceded on my behalf. According to Khaled, the guard had angrily threatened to harm me. When I again engaged him in conversation, he told me “this flag is the true flag of Islam,” and was unresponsive when I argued with him that historically Islam has never been represented by a single flag. The guard claimed repeatedly that there is no al Qaeda in Libya, and that the flag flying atop the courthouse is “dark black,” while the al Qaeda flag is charcoal black. To many locals, it’s a distinction without a difference. One man approached me with a friendly warning: “I recommend that you leave now; [the Islamist fighters] could be watching you.”

But none of this should be surprising. In Tripoli, Abdelhakim Belhaj, a well-known al Qaeda fighter and founder of the notorious Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is now leading the rebel “military counsel” in Tripoli. A few weeks ago, Belhaj ordered his fighters to take command of the Tripoli airport, then controlled by a group of Zintan fighters, a brigade of Berber Libyans who helped liberate the capital from Gaddafi loyalists. A few days later, Belhaj gave a speech emphasizing that his actions had the blessings of the NTC, who appointed him to the leadership of Tripoli’s military command.

Comforting, especially when we keep hearing about stockpiles of Gadhafi’s old weapons — including shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles — falling into al Qaeda’s hands.

On that note, happy Friday!

Read the whole article here.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

mpower6428 October 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

its a little too early to be drawing conclusions about the future of lybia.

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Joe Schmoe October 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Look what happened in Tunisia. Now the Islamist's are in charge there and are starting to ban other secular groups resulting in riots.

Welcome to the Arab "spring".

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mpower6428 October 29, 2011 at 2:11 am

"they are starting to ban secular groups"… sounds like a "unapologetic" version of the kind of crap some some americans would have done right here….

welcome to the american autumn.

in other words….
if they want their politics based in their religion… i dont see how anybody in this country can judge.

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PMI October 29, 2011 at 10:47 am

The difference being that our founding fathers had the foresight to place checks on such behavior in the Constitution rather than fostering it from the get go.

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oppervlakkig October 29, 2011 at 8:05 am

Could you perhaps post a link to a news source where "starting to ban other secular groups" is stated?

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SJE October 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

The Islamists got about 42% of the vote, and they are far more moderate than even mainstream Gulf politics. Are we going to invade Saudi Arabia?

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pedestrian October 30, 2011 at 5:17 am

Don’t be upset. Calm down. The conservatives only secured 40 percent of the seats. This forces a compromise with other minor parties, which will also influence decision making and the constitution.

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Joe Schmoe October 30, 2011 at 5:12 am

Not when they start banning the other parties. So far they've already banned the fourth largest party.

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wqedsd October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm

C'mon, who didn't see this one coming.

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IKnowIT October 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Hello???? Of course!!!!

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RCDC October 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

And who started all this?

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Skyepapa October 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Someone with a match and a can of gas.

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Stephen Russell October 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Read during Libyan Civil War of Islamics turning Libya into Islamic state IE surround Israel again.
Muslim Brotherhood organz (dated to 1920s for origins).

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So? October 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Wonderful! Just wonderful!

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SJE October 29, 2011 at 12:48 am

With Qaddaffi gone, all sorts of people will be coming out of the woodwork. Concern is appropriate, but lets not over-react. The danger is that the US over-reacts and gives the Islamists more legitimacy.

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Nasdaq7 October 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

The US should have declared war and drove the Al Qaeda linked rebels from the country.

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blight October 31, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Nothing like invading an Arab country to bring out the jihadis. A third country to occupy. I wonder what the "patriots" would say about another "un-necessary war" if they grumble so about a Kosovo-style one.

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major.rod October 29, 2011 at 1:55 am

Yes! It is too early to draw any conclusions about Libya's future and over reacting might make them like us less or even push them into the arms of the radicals. I'm sure if we sit idly by things will work themselves out for the best.

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SJE October 29, 2011 at 11:17 am

Who is advocating sitting idle? My concern is we will take any slight sign of something that could, later, evolve into something bad, as a reason for an aggressive US response now.

I didn't like Saddam, but was he a serious threat justified 10 years of blood and money for whatever we have now? How great is Afghanistan going? We intervened in Mogadishu, but the most successful and stable areas of Somalia are those where the locals stood up for themselves, and allied forces did mostly reconstruction.

At some point, we have to recognize our limitations, and be willing to accept that we can't get everything exactly as we want.

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major.rod October 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

SJE – Feeling guilty? You just commented about over reacting. You made ZERO comment about doing ANYTHING.

As for Saddam many characterize our involvement as a failure yet fail to discuss even an iota of what the world would look like with Saddam still in power. Of course he'd have been fine with a nuke aspiring Iran and stood by while we tried to fight Al Qaeda around the world…

Reconstruction in Somalia? Is that what you are recommending for Libya?

My comments were meant to illuminate how ridiculous it is to worry about making the enemy more angry at us before even considering ANY action. Ludicrous!

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SJE October 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Guilty about what?

Your last statement is that your "comments were meant to illuminate how ridiculous it is to worry about making the enemy more angry at us before even considering ANY action."

We ALWAYS need to consider the consequences of actions, and such consequences should be used as part of decision making. This doesnt mean NO action, merely to be judicious.

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major.rod October 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm

"Guilty about what?"

Let me repost since you didn't get it or respond the first time…
"SJE – Feeling guilty? You just commented about over reacting. You made ZERO comment about doing ANYTHING."

Still waiting for your recommendation and if we should start reconstruction like we did in Somalia (YOU brought it up)?

So far no comment. Kind of like "idly standing by"?

blight November 1, 2011 at 12:01 am

They worked out alright in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo pre-intervention. The poor guys at Prague Spring had things work out for them too. We didn't intervene to support Fulgenico in Cuba either.

I'll be the first one to say intervention is no guarantee that things will go well either (Somalia, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, El Salvador), but intervention saved the remainder of the Republic of China and South Korea and that should count for something.

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SJE November 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Agreed. Another example: the Australian military intervention in East Timor saved many lives.

I think that it is the nature of the intervention that matters. People are, unsurprisingly, happy to welcome liberators, but are not happy to welcome "invaders." So, the Australians were not so popular with the Timorese after the Australians pushed for favorable dividing up of oil and gas reserves.

The USA was clearly invading Germany during WWII, and occupied it, but did so in a way that was seen as benevolent and therefore co-opted German society to the benefit of the USA.

Another example: the British were very successful in colonizing India while they were more interested in trading, and were willing to leave Indian cultural practices alone. The serious rebellions started after they tried to force British cultural and religious norms on the locals.

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Nadnerbus October 29, 2011 at 2:25 am

Islamists are the most organized and well funded political groups in the whole region. It's not like there as a well funded Muslim ACLU hanging out, waiting to assert power in a vacuum. This is really one of the largest reasons for the last forty or more years of reapolitik and the backing of strongmen. Dictators are nasty, but sometimes you can do business with them. Religious nut jobs and ideological purists not so much.

Muslim culture in general, and Arab culture in particular need to go through their own turmoil before they will ever move beyond this stuff. I just don't know if the rest of the world will survive it. We really live in interesting times.

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Hahahahaha October 29, 2011 at 7:35 am

Organized? Hahaha, Gadhafi, Assad, Mubarak (our ally) were the peeps who blocked and took out the TERRORISTS in their countries.

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blight October 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Now you see why America built relationships with dictators, because democracy is untidy. Hope people can sleep at night.

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crackedlenses October 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm

That's because in reality our foreign policy decisions are made to further our interests…..

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blight October 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Of course. Solidarity with democracies tends to work best in practice when those democracies are Europe. Otherwise, many nascent democracies tend to lean socialist, and socialism is evil.

At least with dictators you know you have an ally that depends on you for survival.

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steve October 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Duh….

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Armchair Warlord October 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Wow – an article based on rumor, an argument with a "salafi-looking" guard and finding a jihadist flag strung up in an unofficial fashion on a building festooned with flags.

News flash – Libyans are pretty devout people, and many conceptualized their struggle against Gaddafi as jihad. Jihadist flags show up sometimes in revolutionary imagery. That does not mean these people are in with Al Qaeda.

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Zap October 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm

you get what you pay for

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DhuntAUS October 30, 2011 at 3:22 am

Well im pretty sure gadafi didnt like islam and that would be while the uprising was so popular. It was pretty obvious from the start. . . . which just gave AQ a country and a military. . . . .

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blight October 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm

As if they didn't already have a country.

More likely than not they have a local sovereignty agenda, and hopefully aren't going for the whole pan-Muslim-make-a-new-caliphate agenda, because that'll suck.

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pedestrian October 30, 2011 at 5:13 am

I didn’t want to disclose the topic, but there is an Al Qaida member in the high ranking of TNC of Libya.

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oppervlakkig October 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

Name? Source?

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blight October 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm

There are communists in the state department, you hear. I can't divulge my sources, but they are in Hollywood too.

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crackedlenses October 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm

They also are quickly retaking Russia; what's your point?…..

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blight October 30, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Considering the alternative for the Russian people was kleptocrats who were ex-commies anyways, why is either alternative "better" for "the people"?

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crackedlenses October 31, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Just because you're dead if you do or dead if you don't doesn't make it a good decision; anyhow, the Russians can see what's happening. Why don't they stage their own "Arab spring"?…..

Lance October 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Told you this was going to happen. Never should have backed those lousy rebels.

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Deadeye November 3, 2011 at 1:59 am

Now that we've made Libya & Egypt safe for Islam, who will make it safe for all the rest? :-(

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Richard Cranium November 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Hijacking my Ass, It's been the Plan from Day one. hey, just look around at
Washington DC., the white house and go inside the so Called THINK TANK, use
some common sence and don't be a doo-doo.

Richard R. Cranium

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danielhamlett July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

as of fear led dog time as come to look at 911 and the new high jacker at a posed as new theat to the new acomny todays commietiunty to the state issuies stae of law and suipem count thank you daniel hamlett

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Twidget at large October 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

You're mute?, not looking to diss you in any way just intersted.

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Tad October 31, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Ha! No, I'm not mute, although others might wish it sometimes. I was just thinking of where the article said, “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue. I recommend that you don’t publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself.” So I was just joking that "Elhelwa" is fortunate to have a profession that doesn't require a tongue. It seemed funny at the time, but probably isn't.

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blight October 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Communism is their Arab spring to kleptocracy. Which was an Arab spring to iron-fisted communism, which was Arab spring to the Russian monarchy.

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SJE November 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I still do not see why I should feel guilty. It does not follow from any of my earlier comments.

Recommendations: I agree with what I see the administration doing now, which is building relationships with the government, and trying to encourage them in the right direction. Its not just an issue with Libya, but also Chad, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

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major.rod November 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Got it, "relationships" and "encouragement" is your plan. Let's see how that turns out…

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major.rod November 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I see, Instead of "idly standing by" you're promoting standing by "idly".

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SJE November 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Sure, thats how it works most of the time. The US has enormous soft power, but does not use it to its full potential. It is necessary for the US to exercise its military power sometimes, but some times that actually hurts long term US goals.

To take this discussion away from US politics, look at other countries.

China is gaining enormous influence in Africa and South America, without launching a single military action. In Asia, China's military might gets influence, but also raises serious concerns. Now you see Korea, Japan, Vietnam and ASEAN moving closer together to limit Chinese power.

Japan had been seen as a benevolent power in Asia until the 1930s, but its brutal expansion from 1930-45 still hurts its influence around the region despite widespread respect for its industrial success. Just talk to Singaporeans, for example.

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