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Wednesday, September 14, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Post-Gadhafi power struggle between pro-West, pro-Islamist forces 'has become dangerous'

CAIRO — The rebel National Transitional Council of Libya has been divided between pro-Western and pro-Islamic elements in what has led to deadly clashes between rebel factions. The Islamists, including those linked to Al Qaida, have demanded a significant role in any post-Gadhafi government.


"The situation has become dangerous and could threaten everything that was achieved over the last six months," an NTC source said.

Libyan rebel sources said the split pitted NTC executive bureau chairman Mahmoud Jibril against military commander Abdul Hakim Bilhadj. They said Bilhadj, deemed the leading force in the rebel capture of Tripoli, has demanded a significant role in the interim government headed by Jibril.

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Bilhadj has been closely identified with Al Qaida. For years, he served as a commander in the Al Qaida-aligned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which fought the Gadhafi regime in the 1990s.

"Bilhadj has thousands of fighters in the Tripoli area and they won't leave until they get what they want," the source said.

The sources said NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil has sought to mediate between Jibril and Bilhadj. But they said Abdul Jalil has encountered distrust from both Islamists as well as rival tribes that seek reward for joining the revolt against Gadhafi.

Abdul Jalil has sought to remove the Islamist fighters from Tripoli and deploy them to Gadhafi strongholds near Bani Walid and Sirte. But the sources said the estimated 7,000 fighters loyal to Bilhadj were refusing to leave the Libyan capital and sparking battles with rival factions.

"The tension has drawn the attention of NATO, which does not want the revolt to lead to another civil war in Libya," the source said.

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