Abdelhakim Belhadj, sometimes written Belhaj is the new Libyan leader of the Tripoli Military Council. Among Islamists, he is known as Abu Abdullah Assadaq (sometimes written Sadeeq and sometimes Sadik), and yet another form, Abd ul-Hakin Belhadj. He is a “former” member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) (also known as Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya), which was formed specifically to oust Muammar Gaddafi. The group was banned internationally as a terrorist organization following the 9/11/01 terrorists attacks on the U.S. Today the group is known as the Libyan Islamic Movement. The LIGF had numerous ties to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Belhadj reportedly left the LIFG to take on the command of the Tripoli Military Council. This New York Times article also says the LIGF had ties to al-Qaeda, but quotes another leader of the present Libyan Islamic Movement:
Abu Sohaib [his pseudonymn – he’s also on a terrorist watch list] insists that he and his brethren have severed ties to Al Qaeda and have warned the terrorist group it is not welcome in Libya. “It has been made very clear to them, that it is better for them to stay out of the country,” he said.
I haven’t found Abdelhakim Belhaj’s birth country, but in 1988 he went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets. In 2004 he was arrested in Afghanistan and Malaysia and ended up in the hands of the CIA. He was extradited to Libya in 2004. Apparently Gaddafi agreed to incarcerate Belhadj, because all reports say he was “released” in 2008 (some reports says 2009, others 2010) along with 17 others. Gaddafi’s son Saif is believed to have brokered the release.
This report says Belhadj “announced his renunciation of violence” in 2009. The pullout quote from the article is, “From holy warrior to hero of a revolution.”
The LIFG was founded in the 1990s by Libyan mujahedeen returning from Afghanistan and was reportedly previously led by Abu Laith al-Libi, a top Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan who is believed to have been a training camp leader and key link between Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
In the 1990’s LIGF was born of fighters against the Russians in Afghanistan, and they later fought against Muammar Gaddafi, claiming he was “unislamic.”
The U.S. State Department believed the LIGF to be instrumental in the 203 suicide bombing in Morocco – specifically, but not excusively
The LIFG declared the Government of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi un-Islamic and pledged to overthrow it. Some members maintain a strictly anti-Qadhafi focus and organize against Libyan Government interests, but others are aligned with Usama bin Ladin and believed to be part of al-Qaida’s leadership structure or active in the international terrorist network. The United States designated the LIFG a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2004.
Libyans associated with the LIFG are part of the broader international terrorist movement. The LIFG is one of the groups believed to have planned the Casablanca suicide bombings in May 2003. The LIFG claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against Qadhafi in 1996 and engaged Libyan security forces in armed clashes during the 1990s. It continues to target Libyan interests and may engage in sporadic clashes with Libyan security forces. The LIFG constitutes a serious threat to U.S. interests and personnel.
Another Investigative Project article rung the alarm bell in February 2011, reporting that 100 or more LIGF members were released from Libyan jails. The story was, the prisoners had been rehabilitated.
On Sunday, a Libyan official said that Islamist gunmen last week attacked an army weapons depot and a nearby port, killing four soldiers and seizing hundreds of weapons. On Wednesday, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Khaim told European Union ambassadors that al-Qaida has established an emirate in the eastern city of Derna headed by a jihadist released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
We can only speculate: will Libyan women face Modesty Police on the streets of their liberated country?