Libyan Jihadists’ Freehand

In the wake of the murderous assault on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday night, which killed US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other embassy officials, comes this frank eyewitness account (hat tip, Diana West) from Sofian Kadura.

An airline pilot living in Benghazi, Mr. Kadura, who claimed to have fought with “the Freedom Fighter Libyan rebels,” insists “Islamists” from Ansar al-Sharia were responsible for the attack on the US consulate:

…armed Islamists had blocked off the streets. They had automatic rifles, RPGs, and big machine guns mounted on cars. It was obvious they were Islamists due to their long beards.

Mr. Kadura confessed that he and other Benghazi Muslims were

…in a difficult spot, because criticising them can be interpreted as being “against” the Prophet. The Islamists I talked to last night belong to a brigade affiliated with the radical Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia, which translates to “Those Who Want Sharia” [other eyewitnesses and at least one Libyan official have blamed the group for the attack, according to the BBC]. In the past few months, it’s become increasingly powerful and well-known. Like the rest of the brigades in Benghazi, they theoretically ensure security only when the local government asks them to do so. The hospital, which was in dire need of security, recently asked for their help, and since they’ve been guarding it, there’s been no more trouble there. But when religion is involved, they seem to act of their own accord. For example, these past months, they’ve destroyed Muslim mausoleums that they deem blasphemous.

And Kadura concluded with this particularly candid admission about the feckless (at best) role of the Libyan government:

People are quite scared of them, because these Islamists seem unafraid of dying. There have always been Islamists in Benghazi, but during Muammar Gaddafi’s era, they were locked up in jail. Now, they seem to be making up for lost time. And until the government gives us orders to stop them, there’s not much we other brigades can do. However, I think they will have to be stopped soon, because what they did at the consulate went way too far.

Kadura’s candid, if somewhat apologetic account was independently confirmed in more somber terms by an analysis in Le Figaro (hat tip Nidra Poller). According to Patrick Haimzadeh, a former French diplomat stationed in Tripoli, Libyan jihadists had previously attempted to assassinate the British ambassador. Far more troubling, Haimzadeh maintains, is the growing infiltration of Libyan security forces by such jihadists.

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