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New mayor of Tripoli is rebel from Tallaght

AN Irish rebel fighter who helped in the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi has been elected as Mayor of Tripoli.

Mahdi al-Harati (41) is an Irish citizen who was living in Firhouse near Tallaght.

Married to wife Eftaima, he lived in Ireland for 20 years. Her father was born in Libya and her mother is Irish.

Mr Al-Harati led a rebel group that advanced on Tripoli during the Libyan civil war three years ago after travelling there to fight the Gaddafi regime.

His brother in law, Dubliner Housam Najjair fought along side him in 2011 and wrote about his experiences in the book Soldier for a Summer.

Mr Al-Harati has now been chosen as leader by the Tripoli Municipal Council.

unrest

His appointment comes just days after Foreign Affairs minister Charlie Flanagan called for all Irish citizens to leave Libya and Syria due to the unrest there.

"Al-Harati was the first man into Tripoli following the fall of Gaddafi," said one source.

Mr Al-Harati led the main rebel advance that captured Tripoli, a move regarded as being the beginning of the end for Gaddafi.

He was appointed deputy leader of Tripoli's military council, a group which had the aim of merging all rebel units into one coherent national army.

"When he was finished there he led another group of fighters to Syria where they were involved in battles with the forces of Bashar al-Assad," the source added.

Mr Al-Harati has been based in Tripoli since the end of 2012.

He suffered under Gaddafi's regime and was tortured at the age of 14 for his family's anti-government stance.

In 2010 he was part of a group of Irish activists seized during the Israeli storming of a Gaza aid flotilla.

civilian

"He's a really, really nice guy, a really gentle sort of character," said Dr Fintan Lane, who took part in an aid flotilla to Gaza with Mahdi."He's strong-minded and has the heart of a lion.

"Mahdi's a civilian who has decided he just has to do what he is doing."

Libya is currently back in the grip of violence again, with 22 people being killed on Sunday in a day of militia fighting.

Mr Al-Harati has often described himself as a revolutionary, and founded the Liwa Al-Umma rebel group.

In 2012 his wife Eftaima said Al-Harati had joined the anti-Assad rebels following his success against Gaddafi.

"He is very much loved by the people who meet him. He is a born leader," she said.

hnews@herald.ie


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