Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libyan opposition includes a small number of al-Qaeda fighters, U.S. officials say

(Washington Post) - Rebel forces in Libya that have sought to take advantage of U.S.-backed airstrikes appear to include a small number of fighters with ties to al-Qaeda, American officials said Tuesday.

The disclosure raises a potential complication for the Obama administration and other Western governments that are weighing whether to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups, whose composition in some cases remains unclear.

U.S. officials played down their concern about al-Qaeda’s presence, saying that its numbers appear negligible and that the terrorist network has had no dis­cern­ible influence on the groups seeking to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

“We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaeda” and Hezbollah fighters among opposition forces, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said in congressional testimony.

But Stavridis stressed that emerging intelligence on the Libyan opposition “makes me feel that the leadership that I’m seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Colonel Gaddafi.”