Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saif Gadhafi Pack with Islamists

Kadhafi son claims pact with rebel Libya Islamists

"I know they are terrorists. They are bloody. They are not nice. But you have to accept them," he said.

(AFP)NEW YORK — A high-profile son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi said Wednesday his family had forged an alliance with Islamist rebels to drive out the secular opposition to his father's 40-year rule.

Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, who along with his father had long branded the entire opposition as radical extremists, told The New York Times: "The liberals will escape or be killed... We will do it together."

"Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran. So what?" he added, in what the Times described as an hour-long interview that stretched past midnight in a nearly deserted Tripoli hotel.
Seif, who had long served as the face of the regime in the West as he appeared in suits and ties and spoke fluent English, came to the interview sporting a scraggly beard and traditional dress while fingering prayer beads.

He claimed to have negotiated the pact with Ali Sallabi, a leading Islamist in the rebel-held east. Sallabi acknowledged their conversations to the Times but denied the Islamists had switched sides.

The Kadhafi regime has long accused the revolt of being an Al-Qaeda plot and has sought to protray itself as a bulwark against an Islamist takeover of the oil-rich North African country.
The rebels include some Islamists, but insist they are united in wanting to overthrow Kadhafi and establish a democratic government.

Kadhafi said the Islamists were "the real force on the ground" and that Western powers would have to come to terms with them.

"I know they are terrorists. They are bloody. They are not nice. But you have to accept them," he said.

The interview could have been aimed at exploiting recent cracks in the rebels' ranks following the killing of their top military leader General Abdel Fatah Yunis in circumstances that remain opaque.

The rebels rounded up more than 60 people with alleged links to Moamer Kadhafi who are suspected in Yunis's murder following an hours-long gunbattle earlier this week in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Seif repeated the government's contention that Islamists were behind the killing of Yunis, who was Moamer Kadhafi's right-hand man for decades prior to his defection earlier this year.

"They decided to get rid of those people -- the ex-military people like Abdel Fatah and the liberals -- to take control of the whole operation," Seif told the Times. "In other words, to take off the mask."

Gaddafi son declares allegiance to Islamists

Saif al-Islam suggests Libya could become Islamic state – months after branding Islamists as conspirators in rebellion

The one-time alternative face of Colonel Gaddafi's regime, his son, Saif al-Islam, has declared allegiance to Islamists whom he had previously branded as lead-conspirators in the five-month rebellion that has crippled Libya. The move is a departure from five months of rhetoric by Gaddafi junior and his father, both of whom had repeatedly cast the five-month uprising as a putsch by Islamists with a jihad agenda.

Now, Saif Gaddafi has suggested he is prepared to help Islamic groups oust any secular movements in Libya and even suggested Libya could emerge from civil war as an Islamic state.

"You want us to make a compromise. OK," he said in an interview with the New York Times. "You want us to share the pot. OK, but with who? The Islamists are the real force on the ground."

Gaddafi, who has only twice agreed to be interviewed since the rebel uprising in Libya in February, had transformed his appearance. He wore a beard which was characteristic of the fundamentalist salafist, or wahabi interpretation of Islam during the interview, and reportedly carried Islamic prayer beads.

Before the uprising he was often seen in the elite clubs and hotels of Europe, where he had cultivated a reputation as a cultivated, western-orientated heir apparent to the four decades of often oppressive rule of his father.

Now, according to the man he described as the "spiritual leader" of the Islamists in eastern Libya, "secular people....have no place here in Libya". Citing an Islamist figure, Ali Sallabi, Gaddafi said: "These are our common enemies, those nice people with jackets and ties, flying in on private jets from Paris and London."

The apparent about-turn could be an attempt to play to common concerns among Arab states that fundamental Islamists may use the vacuum created by the fall of decades-old dictatorships to push for the introduction of Islamic law and societies that disavow any notion of plural democracies.

The Muslim Brotherhood movements in Egypt and Jordan both espouse a literal interpretation of Qur'anic teachings and were perceived as subversive threats in Hosni Mubarak's Egypt and also in Syria, where the troubled regime of Bashar al-Assad is attempting to portray the uprising there as an Islamic conspiracy supported by the US and Israel.

North Africa has been a front for several Islamic insurrections in recent years and Libya's rebellion does have a strong Islamist element, which has formed an alliance with more liberal members of the Benghazi establishment, as well as elements of Colonel Gaddafi's army which defected in large numbers in February.

The secular side of the rebels has so far been satisfied that the Islamists share a common goal of ousting Colonel Gaddafi and would not stand in the way of plans to democratise Libya if the regime falls. But in Tripoli regime propaganda has cast the country's Islamists as al-Qaida operatives. Posters in Green Square, which remains a government stronghold, show bearded men whom they brand as al-Qaida fighters in cahoots with the US.

Gaddafi said: "We don't trust them [Islamists]. But we have to deal with them."

In Misrata many said Saif-Al-Islam's comments were an admission that Tripoli supports terrorism. "We have said it before, we say it to the whole world, Gaddafi is behind every terrorist group," said Khalid Alwafi, a criminal lawyer and war crimes investigator. "Now he has admitted it himself, through his son."

Other rebels say they are incredulous, pointing out that for months the Gaddafi regime has publicly blamed the rebellion on al-Qaida and Islamic fundamentalists, but now appears to have reversed course by embracing them.

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