Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that 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 ». His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, « including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries ».
US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military’s West Point academy has said the two share an « increasingly co-operative relationship ».
Earlier this month, al-Qaeda issued a call for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion, which it said would lead to the imposition of « the stage of Islam » in the country.