London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Islamist fundamentalist and Al Qaeda affiliated websites played down the possibility of the Libyan regime allying with the Al Qaeda organization, as threatened by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi should the West attack his country. In fact one fundamentalist Islamist website with ties to the Al Qaeda organization responded to Gaddafi’s recent speech with a threat, saying that “the only thing that Al Qaeda has for Gaddafi is Al-Zarqawi’s knife”, in a reference to the former leader of the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a US air strike in Iraq in 2006.
In an interview with Milan-based daily newspaper “Il Giornale”, the Libyan leader said that if the West “behaves with us, as they did in Iraq, then Libya will leave the international alliance against terrorist” adding that “we will then ally ourselves with Al Qaeda and declare a holy war.” In response to this, an Islamist on the Al Qaeda affiliated “Islamic Shemagh” website – whose slogan is “to the descendants of Omar Mukhtar…destroy them [the Libyan regime]” – posted the following message in response to this, “Gaddafi is playing dumb!”
One of Al Qaeda’s most prominent ideologues, and the most senior Libyan in the terrorist organization, Abu Yahya al-Libi, also recently posted a video attacking Colonel Gaddafi and calling on the Libyan people to continue their revolution and overthrow his regime. Al-Libi said “the Libyan people have suffered at the hands of Gaddafi for more than 40 years…he used the Libyans as a testing ground for his violent, rambling, and rotten thoughts.” He also warned the Libyan people that “retreating will mean decades of harsher oppression and greater injustice than what you have endured.” In his speech, al-Libi accused Gaddafi of “spreading corruption” and “giving his children control of the country and its finances” saying that the Gaddafi family have been acting “as if they own everything [in the country].”
Whilst another Al Qaeda ideologue, Salafist Jihadist Sheikh Hussein Bin Mahmoud, gave a speech in which he said that no intelligent person can deny that Colonel Gaddafi is “crazy and foolish.” He added that Gaddafi did not possess the intelligence or intellect to plan or manage the battle against the people of Libya, and he described the Gaddafi children as following in their father’s footsteps. Sheikh Hussein Bin Mahmoud also criticized Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, describing him as being “as stupid as his father” and similarly unable to plan or manage a war. As for the recent victories achieved by the Libyan army against the protests, Bin Mahmoud said that the Libyan regime most likely had foreign military advisors planning and managing the war on its behalf, and he repeated unconfirmed rumors that Israeli, British, or even Italian military advisors are in Libya, aiding the Gaddafi regime. The Al Qaeda ideologue stressed that it is clear that Gaddafi and his family could not be responsible for the recent Libyan military victories against the rebels, but rather that these were thanks to military minds hired by the Gaddafi regime, in the same way that the Libyan regime had hired African mercenaries to fight on his behalf, utilizing Libyan public funds.
For his part, the well-known Libyan Islamist Noman Benotman, who recently joined the London-based Islamic think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “essentially, there is a state of enmity between the Gaddafi regime and Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda has issued several statements calling on the Libyan people to fight and overthrow the Libyan Colonel.” However Benotman added that if there is any future cooperation between the two parties, this could perhaps be seen in “the Libyan regime overlooking Al Qaeda movement inside Libyan territory, and perhaps providing them with arms via a third party.”
Whilst well-known Islamist Al Qassam – an alias – expressed his surprise at the Libyan army’s recent victories over the rebels, driving them back to their stronghold in Benghazi. He said “it is said and unpleasant news…what we have seen and heard over the pat few days with regards to Gaddafi forces returning to some cities [that were previously held by the rebels].” He asked “what is happening? In the beginning of the Libyan revolution, the rebels achieved consecutive victories, gaining control of city after city, whilst the Libyan army leadership was divided, and in addition to this many Libyan ambassadors outside of the country quickly resigned and declared their support for the opposition. However over the past 4 days, all of this has stopped and the Gaddafi forces have begun to recover its strength, so what is happening?”
Al Qassam also said that he believed that Gaddafi was holding the families of some of his senior military officers, and pilots, hostage, to ensure that they do not flee. He said that the evidence of this is that in the early stages of the uprising the Libyan Air Force was reluctant to attack the protestors, with pilots fleeing the country in some cases, however Gaddafi’s aerial campaign against the rebels following this has continued and intensified, and that the reason for this is perhaps because Gaddafi is holding the Libyan pilots’ families hostage.
Whilst another Islamist said “Gaddafi is taking his final breaths…for by shedding the blood of the people of Libya he ensures that the conflict remains alive, and that the land which had been drowned in blood does not die.” He added that “Libya has tasted the blood of Omar Mukhtar and his rebels, and this ended with the Italians being kicked out…and today it is tasting the blood of the [anti-Gaddafi] martyrs.”