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Sunday 21 September 2014

Dublin dad elected as Mayor of Tripoli in Libya

Published 08/08/2014 | 07:05

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A copy picture of Libyan rebel commander, Al mahdi Al Harati. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/8/2011
A copy picture of Libyan rebel commander, Al mahdi Al Harati. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/8/2011
A copy picture of Libyan rebel commander, Al mahdi Al Harati. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/8/2011
Mahdi al-Harati

Friends and family of an Irish rebel fighter who helped in the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi have welcomed his election as Mayor of Tripoli and hope he can bring political stability to their war-torn homeland.

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Mahdi al-Harati (41) is an Irish citizen, who lived in Firhouse near Tallaght for 20 years with his Irish born wife Eftaima, who has an Irish mother and Libyan father.

Al-Harati led a rebel group that included his friend and brother-in-law, Dubliner Housam 'Sam' al-Najjar.

Last night Housam told the Herald he was proud of Mr al-Harti's achievement in being elected mayor.

Revolution

"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 hated dictator 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 its 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, which was voted in on May 17.

Mr al-Najjar 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," Housam said.

"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.

"People had lost hope, but the fighters and the militia see him as an alternative they can trust.

"Change is on the horizon and Mahdi is the first elected mayor in the new free Libya," he explained.

"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.

Experience

Housam was born in Dublin. He is the author of the book Soldier for a Summer, which charts his experience of the battles that led to the toppling of Gaddafi.

The country has experienced turmoil in recent years with more than 20 people were killed just last weekend as militias fought for control of Tripoli's airport.

The death toll in fighting over recent weeks, which has also hit the city of Benghazi now stands at more than 230.

The country is now in the grip of the worst violence since the uprising to oust Gaddafi. The fighters are mainly former rebels who toppled Gaddafi with the aid of NATO air strikes.

cfeehan@herald.ie

Irish Independent

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