Libyan opposition leader wasn’t held at Guantanamo

For self-serving reasons, Col. Muammar Qaddafi has attempted to play up al Qaeda’s role in the Libyan opposition, but in so doing he has made bizarre claims (e.g., Osama bin Laden and drugs are manipulating the rebels). He has also made other allegations that are demonstrably false. For instance, Qaddafi and other Libyan officials have claimed that a former Guantanamo detainee named Abdul Hakim al Hasadi has set up an Islamic emirate in eastern Libya.

Al Hasadi has set up a base of operations in Derna. There’s just one problem: Abdul Hakim al Hasadi was never held at Guantanamo. In his interviews with Western publications, Al Hasadi has denied that he was held at Gitmo. And while that is not necessarily dispositive in and of itself, there is no record of his detention at Gitmo in any of the declassified files that have been produced and released from the military detention facility.

This doesn’t mean that al Hasadi, who says he is in charge of defending Derna, a known hotbed for Islamic extremism in eastern Libya, is necessarily a benign actor, however.

In a recent interview with Il Sole, an Italian publication, al Hasadi explained: “I have never been to Guantanamo. I was captured in 2002 in Peshawar in Pakistan, while I was returning from Afghanistan where I fought against the foreign invasion. I was handed over to the Americans, and held for a few months in Islamabad, delivered to Libya, and released in 2008.”

So, by his own account, al Hasadi joined the jihad in Afghanistan. There’s more. Il Sole asked al Hasadi about the jihadists sent from Iraq to Libya to fight.

“I sent over about 25,” al Hasadi told Il Sole‘s reporter. “Some came back, and today are on the Ajdabiya front; they are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists. I condemn the September 11 attacks, and attacks against innocent civilians in general. But the members of al Qaeda are also good Muslims, and are fighting against the invader.”

This doesn’t inspire confidence. While dismissing his ties to al Qaeda and condemning the September 11 attacks, al Hasadi concedes that he fought in Afghanistan, sent 25 more jihadists to fight in Iraq, and calls al Qaeda members “good Muslims.” And as John Rosenthal noted at Pajamas Media a few days ago, al Hasadi praised Osama bin Laden’s “good points” during an interview with The New York Times.

There is a temptation to see Libya through the “dictator vs. al Qaeda” or “al Qaeda vs. dictator” prism. Qaddafi certainly wants the West to view the conflict that way.

It is more complicated than that, and there is no reason to believe that Qaddafi’s opposition is primarily jihadist/Islamist in nature. That said, according to The Los Angeles Times, the US intelligence community claims that it “has found no organized presence of Al Qaeda or its allies among the Libyan opposition.”

But how can the intelligence community dismiss out of hand the possibility that men such al Hasadi, who may be a member of the Libyan Fighting Islamic Group (a known al Qaeda affiliate), are not agents of al Qaeda or like-minded jihadist organizations? Given al Hasadi’s admitted jihadist ties and double-speak on al Qaeda, we cannot dismiss the possibility.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Peacemaker says:

    I guess I am not the only one who thinks: THIS SMELLS!! If Gaddafi is right, change tactics ! (and strategy as well)
    Al Qaida has fooled the USA – and the whole world – before. Never again !!

  • jloganj says:

    So, an Al Qaeda affiliated fighter was rolled up as an ACM in Afghanistan, spent a few months in American custody and is now the head of a US-backed rebel uprising in Libya?
    Dismantle the American Empire; rebuild the Republic.

  • Charu says:

    Excellent commentary! We ignore the potential for al Qaeda and/or the Muslim Brotherhood taking advantage of the situation at our peril. The situation bears similarities to Russia in 1917.

  • Bill Baar says:

    Is it too naive of me to suggest some one from State get a flip phone and video this guy telling the Taliban their fighting a dumb war? In exchange for the no fly zone over Libya maybe?

  • James says:

    Actually, at least these rebels are fighting like real soldiers on battlefields with and against other soldiers.
    I have yet to see a suicide bomber or truck bomber among them (which are the hallmarks of real AQ thugs).
    By far not the least to mention the fact that there has not yet been a single KIA American soldier in this thing.
    Sure, there just might be just a few AQ thugs among the resistance in this Libyan Revolution but that should not misguide US to not at least tentatively support them.
    Let’s not forget who the real tyrant was behind the Lockerbie and Berlin disco bombings.

  • mike says:

    I think a lot of the people we might need to be talking to in the Muslim world agree with a lot of what bin Laden has to say, and were revolted by the American invasion and occupation (read, humiliation) of two Muslim countries. To impeach anyone who held those views would leave us with very few potential partners among the populations of the Muslim world. Now, don’t get me wrong, the guy might be a terrorist. But based on the quotations found in this post, I wouldn’t convict him and ban him from participating in a post-qadaffi Lybia. I might not embrace him with open arms so quickly, either, but we could afford to take a step back and question our own biases and prefudices before casting aspersions.


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