NEW YORK – President Obama and NATO destabilized Libya politically by allowing al-Qaida and radical Islamic factions to gain control of the country, a Libyan tribal leader told WND.
Sheik Mahmoud Al Sharief, who heads five tribes in the Western mountains of Libya reaching from Tripoli to Tunisia, spoke to WND from Libya in a Skype interview.
“There is a state of anarchy in Libya, he said.
“There is no government now, there is no law and order. Under the old regime Libya was a stabilizing factor in the region, a peaceful nation with a productive economy, but now that the U.S. government and NATO have come in, Libya has become a destabilizing factor in the region, dominated by al-Qaida and al-Qaida related radical Islamic groups.”
He said the “provisional government established by the Obama administration and by NATO is not functioning.”
Based in Benghazi, the National Transitional Council of Libya became the de facto government of Libya during the civil war in which the rebel groups backed by the U.S. and NATO ousted Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011. In August 2012, the NTC formally transferred power to the General National Congress, which is tasked with forming a constituent assembly to write Libya’s permanent constitution.
Al Sharief claimed the current provisional government in Libya constitutes a very weak state that invites al-Qaida extremists a chance to infiltrate and control the country.
Al Sharief said that in his region alone, near Sabratha, roughly 40 miles west of Tripoli, there is a training camp full of al-Qaida members, splinter groups and sympathizers who came from throughout the Islamic world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Algeria and Pakistan.
Prime spot to strike West
Rich in oil and strategically located, Libya is “an attractive location for al-Qaida and Islamic radicals to strike against Western interests and Western targets,” he said
Al Sharief noted the country is only a few hours by speedboat to Italy or Greece. It neighbors Algeria and Niger, which both border Mali, where al-Qaida recently had gained strength.
“So al-Qaida is now strong, with massive, heavy weapons, and I’m not just talking about sub-machine guns. Al-Qaida has a lot of cash. And al-Qaida now has the advantage of being able to hide behind the weak state in Libya,” he said.
He noted that last year in Algeria a coordinated band of Islamic terrorists attacked a convoy of gas refinery workers, including foreign nationals and expatriates from the United States, the U.K., Norway and Japan. The four-day siege resulted in the deaths of 38 hostages.
“Right now, there are six major al-Qaida training camps in Libya – in Sabratha, in Sirte, in Misrata, in Derna, in Benghazi and in Sabha,” Al Sharief said.
The population of Tajoura has been chased from their homes by the Misrata militia, he noted, allowing al-Qaida groups to train in the empty city.
There are more than 1.8 million Libyans living in exile, he pointed out, in Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and some European countries.
“This is a result of the campaign by President Obama and NATO to support the so-called ‘freedom fighters who were killing and are now slaughtering the people in a butcher style,” he said.
The country is now in chaos.
“There is no state, there is no government, there is no country,” he said. “No one is in control. There is no law and order. It is anarchy,” he said.
“If you realize the prime minister was kidnapped from his hotel at 3 a.m. in the morning, you will see what a desperate state Libya is in right now,” he added.
On Oct. 10, 2013, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped at gunpoint by a group of men believed to be former Islamic rebels and taken from the hotel in Tripoli where he lived to be driven to an undisclosed location. He was released several hours later after members of a Tripoli-based militia stormed the house where he was being held hostage.
The kidnapping was believed to be in retaliation for a U.S. Special Forces raid that seized Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqui. Known as Abu Anas al-Libi, he is a Libyan al-Qaida suspect with a $5 million bounty on his head for playing a suspected role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Al Sharief told WND there have been repeated unconfirmed reports in recent months that U.S. Navy ships offshore Libya have been launching unannounced missile attacks on al-Qaida training camps in the country.
He further confirmed a report WND published in December that Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an al-Qaida operative who was a principal organizer of the attack on the U.S. compound and annex in Benghazi, remains a major al-Qaida force in Tripoli.
“Even more than Belhaj, Khalid al-Sharif has been appointed by Prime Minister Zeidan to be deputy defense minister for Libya, even though he is still al-Qaida,” Al Sharief continued. “Ansar al-Sharia, the militant arm of the 17th of February Brigade, is also al-Qaida aligned.”
He concluded the interview with worries about the future of Libya.
“The only hope for the future is for the people of Libya to reunite and to throw these radical Islamic elements out of the country,” he said.
JoAnne Moriarty helped arrange the Skype interview with Sheik Mahmoud Al Sharief.