Rebels admit links to al-Qa'ida
A KEY leader of the Libyan rebels has admitted that jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi said 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, "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".
Mr al-Hasidi said he had fought against "the foreign invasion" in Afghanistan.
He insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists", but added that the "members of al-Qa'ida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".
Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said yesterday that al-Qa'ida had pillaged military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and had 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 attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.
Even though the LIFG is not part of al-Qa'ida, the US military's West Point academy has said the two share an "increasingly co-operative relationship". In 2007, documents captured by allied forces from the town of Sinjar, showed LIFG members made up the second largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, after Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, al-Qa'ida called for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion, which it said would lead to the imposition of "the stage of Islam" in the country. (© Daily Telegraph, London)