The commander of the unit that liberated Tripoli from longtime President Muammar Gaddafi and helped storm his compound was a senior military leader in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Ironically enough, the commander, Abd al Hakim Bilhaj, had been freed from custody back in 2010 by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al Islam, as part of an amnesty program. At the time, Bilhaj and more than 200 other LIFG fighters claimed to have renounced the use of violence. From Al-Sharq al-Awsat (a translation from an Arabic version of the article):
Abd-al-Hakim Bilhaj, commander of the revolutionaries’ military council in Tripoli who emerged as the commander of the operation to liberate the Libyan capital at the Bab-al-Aziziyah battle before two days, was the amir of the Islamic Fighting Group [LIFG] which used to be called extremist…
Bilhaj was born in 1966, is a civil engineer graduate, and married to two women, one Moroccan and the other Sudanese. He left for Afghanistan in 1988 to take part in the Afghan jihad at that time and then traveled to several Islamic countries, among them Pakistan, Turkey, and Sudan. He was arrested in Afghanistan and Malaysia in 2004 and American intelligence interrogated him in Thailand before handing him over to Libya in the same year. He was released in Libya in 2008 and announced his renunciation of violence in 2009.
Bilhaj is known among the Islamic trends’ circles as “Abi-Abdallah al-Sadiq” and he turned from being a hunted man in the LIFG into a hero who the revolutionaries handed the banner of liberating Tripoli.
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