The Libyan Government says Al Qaeda is involved in the nation’s uprising and has hinted that a “very well known leader” of the organisation is involved.
“The involvement of Al Qaeda in the conflict in Libya is proven every day,” said Musa Ibrahim during a news conference.
“We believe it’s very dangerous if these people establish themselves in this country, have control of its future, its immense wealth a footstep from Europe.”
Ibrahim said his government had information that “the famous Abdel Hakim Al-Hasadi, the very famous Al Qaeda leader, who has a jihadist history and fought in many countries including Iraq and Afghanistan”, had left the eastern city of Benghazi for besieged Misrata.
Hasadi, who he said was “very well-known to intelligence services around the world”, was travelling in an old Egyptian ship, the Al-Shahid Abdelwahab, accompanied by 25 “highly trained fighters”.
“They repaired the ship and they filled it with weapons and advanced communication gadgets,” he added.
“And unfortunately the (Western) coalition knows about this, as they are observing our waters, and unfortunately they are prepared to allow known Al Qaeda members to pass from Benghazi to Misrata,” said Ibrahim.
Another Islamist, Ismail Sallabi, a member of the Fighting Islamic Group in Libya (GICL) and Al Qaeda, was training 200 “fundamentalists” in the “April 7” military camp in Benghazi with the support of about 20 experts sent from Qatar, said Ibrahim.
Abdelmonem Al-Madhuni, who he said had been an Al Qaeda member since the 1980s, was recently killed as he fought alongside rebels near the Brega oil terminal west of Benghazi.
Madhuni, who is known under various aliases, was wanted by Interpol and the United States, he said.
A spokesman for Libyan rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi’s regime last month played down allegations by a top Nato commander that there may be Al Qaeda fighters in their ranks.
Top Nato commander and US Admiral James Stavridis had said earlier that the alliance was trying to gain a clearer picture of the rebels who had advanced with the help of Western-led coalition air strikes.
“We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential Al Qaeda, Hezbollah. We’ve seen different things,” he said, referring to Osama Bin Laden’s global jihadist network and Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim militia.
“At this point, I don’t have detail sufficient to say that there’s a significant Al Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence in and among” (rebel forces), Stavridis said.
Al Qaeda militant Abu Yahya al-Libi, himself a Libyan whose whereabouts are unknown, has urged on the rebellion against Gaddafi, and Al Qaeda in North Africa has vowed to do everything in its power to help.