David Cockburn a rencontré Abdulhakim Belhadj, chef militaire de Tripoli pour les rebelles libyens. (The Independent du 2 septembre 2011.) Belhadj est l’objet de bien des spéculations et hypothèses, à cause de son passé de militant islamiste, ancien combattant islamiste anti-soviétique en Afghanistan, dans les années 1980. (Voir le 27 août 2011 et le 28 août 2011.)
D’une façon générale, Belhadj confirme la version soft (façon de dire) des hypothèses à son égard : certes, entraîné en Afghanistan, certes torturé par la CIA puis par les services de Kadhafi quand Kadhafi était le meilleur ami de la CIA et de l’OTAN ; mais nullement d’accord avec al Qaïda, aujourd’hui acharné à œuvrer pour l’unité tranquille et modéré de la Libye et ainsi de suite… Belhadj admet tout de même qu’il lui est assez difficile d’oublier le traitement que lui a fait subir la CIA.
«Mr Belhaj, the head of the military council for Tripoli, who led an Islamist guerrilla organisation fighting the Gaddafi regime in the 1990s, told The Independent in an interview that he had been directly “tortured by CIA agents” in Thailand after being first arrested in Malaysia.
»If true, his story is evidence of the close co-operation between the CIA and Colonel Gaddafi's security services after the Libyan leader denounced the 9/11 attacks. After his stint in the hands of the CIA, Mr Belhaj was kept in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. He says: “I was in prison for seven years during which I was subjected to torture as well as solitary confinement. I was even denied a shower for three years.” Other Libyan Islamist prisoners have related how they were sometimes taken from Abu Salim to be questioned by US officials in Tripoli.
»Released from prison in 2010, Mr Belhaj, who had military experience from fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians in the 1980s, became one of the most effective rebel military commanders. He is said by diplomats to have played a crucial role in the capture of Tripoli at the end of last month, and is highly regarded by the chairman of the Transitional National Council (TNC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
»Ironically, given his claims of previous mistreatment at US hands, Mr Belhaj has emerged as one of Nato's most important allies during their air campaign in support of the rebels over the last six months. Speaking in his headquarters in the Mitiga military airbase on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli, he forcefully denied that he and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which he helped found in 1995, had ever been allied to al-Qa'ida.
»“We never had any link to al-Qa'ida,” said Mr Belhaj, a short, soft-spoken, bearded man, who does not use a military title. “We never took part in global jihad. The fact that we were in the same country, Afghanistan, [as al-Qa'ida] does not mean we had the same goal.” He stresses that the sole aim of the LIFG was always to overthrow Gaddafi.
»Despite his current close co-operation with Nato, Mr Belhaj says he finds it difficult to forgive his treatment by the CIA in the past. When first detained at an airport in Malaysia in 2004 he says he was with his wife: ”She was six months pregnant and she suffered a lot.” […]
»Mr Belhaj is keen to underline that he and other Islamists are not seeking to impose their agenda. He says: “The Libyan people have different views and those views will be respected.” He also evidently wants to reassure Nato countries that they have not helped get rid of Gaddafi only to see a fundamentalist Islamic state replace him. He had just returned from a meeting in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which has given him significant support, where “I explained to them our vision of the future.” Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the TNC, specifically says he was taken to a Nato meeting in order to reassure the West that he presented no threat.
»Mr Belhaj says the thousands of militiamen from all over Libya, who owe allegiance to his Military Council, will ultimately join a new Libyan army or return to civilian life…»