September 4, 2011

A senior Islamist rebel in charge of controlling Tripoli since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi denied links to al Qaeda and said he had been tortured by U.S. intelligence officers in 2004, French daily Le Monde reported on Saturday.

Western officials have expressed concern that some part of the fighting groups that helped to overthrow Gaddafi were Islamist militants or affiliated to al Qaeda, and might seek to install hardline religious rule in his wake.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who helped lead an Islamist group that has fought in close cooperation with the main rebel National Transitional Council, said his group had no intention of seizing power and would let the Libyan people decide on a form of rule in the post-Gaddafi era.


Belhadj acknowledged having fought alongside al Qaeda jihadists in Afghanistan but said that his Libyan group never espoused the same ideology of al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

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