Irish rebel fighter is elected mayor of Tripoli
Friends and family of an Irish rebel fighter, who helped in the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi, have welcomed his election as mayor of Tripoli, amid hopes he can bring political stability to their war-torn homeland.
Mahdi al-Harati (41) is an Irish citizen who lived in Firhouse, Co Dublin, for 20 years with his Irish-born wife Eftaima, who has an Irish mother and Libyan father.
Al-Harati, inset below, led a rebel group that included his brother-in-law, Housam 'Sam' al-Najjar.
Housam told the Irish Independent he was proud of his friend's achievement in being elected mayor.
"As one involved with the revolution and seeing first-hand his leadership qualities, I am very happy for Mahdi," he said. "Libya, and Tripoli in general, is in need of men with leadership qualities."
The pair travelled there in 2011 to fight the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Mr al-Harati became commander of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade.
After Gaddafi was removed from power he became deputy military chief for Tripoli before travelling to Syria, where he joined the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr al-Harati was also one of those seized after an Israeli attack on a Gaza flotilla ship, the Mavi Marmara, in April 2010. He was reported to have been wounded and spent nine days in a jail in Tel-Aviv.
He has now been chosen as leader by the Tripoli Municipal Council.
His brother-in-law said: "Mahdi has the support of the mainstream Libyans - the people on the ground - and that is more important for Libya than politicians with lots of qualifications but no life experience or understanding of the people."
"There is a lot of hope, even if Mahdi has received this post in times when Tripoli is in a time of war, strife and gun battles.
"He is not taking this role in a stable environment, but having been elected he might be able to help restore peace. Hopefully, he can make a difference," he added.
Mr al-Najjar said that both fighters and the militia in the Libyan city saw al-Harati as an alternative they could trust.
"Change is on the horizon and Mahdi is the first elected mayor in the new free Libya. Mahdi is not just a talker, he is a man with backing and might be able to unite the factions currently at war," he added.
Born in Dublin, Housam wrote about his experiences fighting in Libya against Gaddafi in the book 'Soldier for a Summer'.