(ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 15 - The die is cast: ''The time has
come to rebuild Libya,'' and the Head of the Military Council of
Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a strongman of the revolution, has
decided to enter the political arena, resigning from his post to
dedicate himself full time to this new goal.
The former leader of the Combatant Group of Islamic Libyans
(LIFG), an anti-Gaddafi formation that arose in the mid 1990s
with several insurrections on the Eastern seaboard, and
(according to some observers) responsible for three attempts on
the dictator's life, is to form his own party.
It is not clear what the next move will be: analysts
speculate that the new political formation will not manage to
make its appearance in time for the elections to the Constituent
Assembly, scheduled for June 19, but will aim instead for the
political elections that are due to take place once the new
constitution has been approved.
Meanwhile Mr Belhaj has made his resignation official and the
National Transitional Libyan Council (NTC) will have to appoint
a new head of the Military Council in Tripoli, which runs an
armed force of more than 25,000 service personnel.
Born in the Libyan capital in 1966 and with a degree in
Engineering, Belhaj moved on to fighting at the side of the
Afghan Mujahidin at the time of the Soviet invasion. On his
return to his country, he set up an anti-Gaddafi Islamic group
and then returned once again to Afghanistan, this time fighting
under the Taleban.
In 2002 the Gaddafi regime issued a warrant for his arrest,
accusing him of having ''close ties'' with Al Qaeda and with
Mullah Omar. Two years later he was captured in Thailand with
the collaboration of the CIA and MI6 and sent back to the
Gaddafi regime, following a period spent in Guantanamo, as one
of the many subjects of 'rendition' much used by US
Belhaj left prison in 2010 on an amnesty by Saif al-Islam. A
few months later, leading one of the hard-line factions in the
revolt and with help from the Tuwar (revolutionaries)of Jebel
Nafusa, he helped bring Gaddafi's reign of power to an end,
forcing him and his family to withdraw hurriedly from the
capital, leaving it in rebel hands.
But what concerns the NTC is not so much the man's past as
the suspicion that Belhaj is being directly backed by Qatar,
with generous contributions both of money and military hardware.
Mr Belhaj defines himself as a ''normal citizen who fights for a
shared cause,'' but he is undoubtedly one of the most popular
leaders in a country where a constitution appears to be on its
way in which 'Sharia law' will provide the principal source of
legislation, as many members of the NTC expected. And he could
indeed become the ''strong man'' that the polls say the Libyans
are waiting for to take over in the post-Gaddafi order.