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Monday, March 29, 2010    

Libya's Ghadafi lets 214 Al Qaida prisoners walk

CAIRO — After nearly five years of negotiations, Libya has released hundreds of Al Qaida detainees.   

The regime of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Ghadafi has freed 214 Al Qaida prisoners as part of a reconciliation with the insurgency network. The detainees were identified as including members of the Al Qaida-aligned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

"This is an important day for Libya because it is a day of forgiveness and honesty," Seif Al Islam, the son of Ghadafi, said on March 23.

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Officials said the detainees had agreed to renounce violence and support the Ghadafi regime. They said the detainees, including the leader of the group, said they would not renew links to the insurgency network.

The release capped nearly five years of negotiations between the junior Ghadafi and Al Qaida-aligned insurgents in Libya who were captured in the late 1990s. In October 2009, the Tripoli regime released the first group of detainees from the Islamic Fighting Group.

Seif, described as heir-apparent, said another 232 Islamist detainees would be released. He said authorities were examining whether the prisoners had severed their ties to the Islamic Fighting Group and other insurgency networks. The Islamic Fighting Group was said to have formally joined Al Qaida in 2007.

"Since the beginning of this program, 705 Islamists have been freed and 409 are still in prison," Seif said.

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