A leader for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (or LIFG) with close links to the Taliban and al Qaeda commanded a unit of Libyan rebels in Ajdabiyah that is “officially sanctioned by the opposition government.” The recently slain commander, known as Abdul Monem Muktar Mohammed, even directed NATO airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces. From the Los Angeles Times:
He once lived under the Taliban’s protection, met with Osama bin Laden and helped found a group the U.S. has listed as a terrorist organization. He died in a secondhand U.S. military uniform, ambushed by Moammar Kadafi’s men as he cleared a road after an airstrike by his new NATO allies.
Aides to Abdul Monem Muktar Mohammed say the Libyan rebel fighter was leading a convoy of 200 cars west of this hotly contested strategic city Friday when a bullet struck him on the right side of the chest. He opened his passenger door and jumped out. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby.
And according to the Los Angeles Times, there are many more like Mohammed in the leadership and rank and file:
Rebel leaders are sensitive to criticism by some in the West that Al Qaeda “fellow travelers” are deeply involved in the fight against Kadafi. With some defensiveness, they say Afghan veterans such as Mohammed, 41, were pushed to extremes by Kadafi’s authoritarian rule, and that with freedom, the danger of a homegrown militant extremist threat has faded.
But there are many unanswered questions about Libya’s anti-Kadafi forces, with at least 20 former Islamic militant leaders in battlefield roles, according to the rebel army, and hundreds of Islamists participating or watching from the sidelines. All speak of unity and brotherhood, but in the new state, will they be tempted by a once-in-a-lifetime chance to overpower Libya with a conservative Islamist vision?
The fighters themselves might not even know their answer, caught up in the moment’s revolutionary fervor and vacillating between a longing for peace and their dreams of achieving an Islamic state.
Read the whole thing. This paints a picture vastly different than what was offered weeks ago, when top US intelligence officials claimed there were no Islamist terrorists fighting with the Libyan rebels.
Also see Threat Matrix report, Libyan opposition leader wasn’t held at Guantanamo.