Sky News reports that the U.S. is considering selling arms to rebels in Libya fighting the anti-American dictatorship of Muammar Gadhafi, but it has been revealed that at least one rebel commander has sympathy for Al-Qaeda and his fighters include jihadists who fought in Iraq. The U.S. began participating in a military intervention in Libya on March 19 to stop the government from massacring the rebels and killing civilians.
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, a rebel commander, told an Italian newspaper that around 25 of his fighters previously fought Coalition forces in Iraq, reports The Telegraph. He also said he was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 after fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan as a member of the Libyan Fighting Group, which is tied to Al-Qaeda.
“…members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader,” al-Hasidi said.
The revelation comes as the Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. intelligence has concluded that there is no organized presence of Al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremists among the Libyan rebels.
“We’re keeping an eye out for extremist activity in Libya, but we haven’t seen much, if any, to date,” a counter-terrorism official told the newspaper.
CNN.com also reported that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to become active in Libya in an article titled, “Energized Muslim Brotherhood in Libya Eyes a Prize.” Brotherhood officials have met with the Libyan rebels and are returning to the country, the news network said, though “there is little or no overt presence” because of the dictator’s suppression of his opponents.
Ryan Mauro, the Christian Action Network’s National Security Advisor, says that the rebels should be armed because “It’s better to help them remove Gadhafi from power than stick around protecting the rebels for a prolonged period of time like happened in Iraq after the Gulf War,” Mauro said.
He added that he believes the rebels are mostly secular and cannot be characterized as Islamists as a whole.
“We have to make clear to the rebels that our support will only come if weapons are not given to radical Islamic militants and an accounting process must be in place to verify this.”