Ex-jihadist praises Cameron's Libya 'ammunition'

Muammar Gaddafi in defiant mode
Muammar Gaddafi in defiant mode

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron's clear stance against Muammar Gaddafi provides "ammunition" for ordinary people in Libya, a former associate of Osama Bin Laden has told politics.co.uk.

Noman Benotman, an ex-leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group banned after 9/11 for its links with al-Qaida, said the prime minister's speech in Kuwait yesterday will "help a lot of Muslims" improve their perception of Britain.

Mr Benotman has renounced his terrorist past, despite ten years' experience in jhadist groups. He is now a senior analyst at counter-extremism thinktank Qulliam, which has embraced his expertise on deradicalisation issues.

Yesterday the British prime minister condemned the "appalling violence" seen on the streets of Libya and said the UK's focus in its relations with Middle Eastern countries would shift from an emphasis on just security and prosperity to political and economic reform.

Mr Benotman said of Mr Cameron: "He's trying to reassure people from the Middle East that the UK, and the west as well, do care about you. It's very important."

He returned to Britain from Tripoli on Monday. "A lot of the intellectuals are looking to Europe, and America as well," he added. "Everybody is talking about it - even elderly women, if you can believe it.

"They are asking - where's the west, where's Europe? They hope they're not going to compromise their values because of oil... it's really important."

Mr Benotman said the Libyan army had removed hundreds of bodies of murdered civilians from the streets of Tripoli prior to moves allowing western media outlets into the city.

He claimed that western journalists risked being taken hostage by the regime if they entered the country, which he claimed had already descended into a form of civil war.

"It's a war situation," he continued. "The army are fighting the people, the civilians."

The UN security council is considering its position on Libya in a closed session. One option already raised in some quarters is the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya, preventing Colonel Gaddafi from using fighter jets against protesting civilians.

"It will give hope to the people that they're being protected, [especially] if the message is strong and we have a clear signal, 'you're not going to get away with it'. It will remind him of Saddam," Mr Benotman said.

Asked if he supported a land invasion by UN forces, he added: "Yes, I would like to see anything to stop this massacre."


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