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From al-Qaeda terrorist to CIA “Freedom Fighter”: one man’s journey from Europe to Libya

In the bloody terror-fueled conflicts that have been waged by the U.S. and NATO in Libya and Syria, one man has helped to recruit so-called “freedom fighters” and unleash them on those countries’ innocent civilians. But he has yet to be brought to justice.

by Steven Sahiounie

Part 1

Interpol may be on the hunt for the former mayor of Libya’s capital of Tripoli – an Irish-Libyan man who has been named as an international terrorist by Saudi Arabia.

Mahdi al-Harati has lived in Malta on-and-off since 2014. In January 2017, he was arrested due to his involvement in a knife attack in Malta that occurred between two Libyans, as all three had gotten into a political argument that grew out of control.

It is odd that al-Harati would seek safe harbor in Malta, which is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. However, it is this very sea in which al-Harati first sailed into the international spotlight due to his associations with al-Qaeda and other terror groups. His relatively recent arrest has brought renewed attention to his past, including his history of recruiting terrorists – with the help of the CIA – for the purpose of aiding in Western-backed regime change efforts.

His support of such efforts was uncovered in July 2011, when he was questioned by Irish police regarding the source of a sum of money totaling 200,000 euros that had been stolen from his home in Ireland. Al-Harati told the police that the money had been given to him by the CIA in order to fund efforts to overthrow the government of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

At the time, he was the commander of the “Tripoli Brigade,” a military unit that was formed in April of that same year for the purpose of bringing down Gaddafi. Al-Harati started assembling the unit after visiting Benghazi in the wake of mass anti-Gaddafi protests that erupted in February. The brigade was formed with the support of the CIA.

By August 2011, the brigade had over 1,000 fighters trained by Qatari Special Forces, equipped with light modern weaponry, uniforms, body armor and communications equipment. The brigade also boasted an eight-man sniper unit. Throughout the assault on Gaddafi’s Libya, Qatar had functioned as a U.S. proxy, channeling vast sums of cash and military resources.

By September 2011, al-Harati had been appointed to assist of infamous al-Qaeda chief Abdel Hakim Belhaj. His appointment coincided with a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Tripoli’s Green Square.

By that point, it had become widely known that U.S. and NATO officials were working with al-Qaeda, rebranding them as “freedom fighters” to accomplish their goal of removing Gaddafi from power. Despite Belhaj’s high-ranking position within al-Qaeda, he was still named the military governor of Tripoli by NATO.

The U.S.-NATO plan for Libya was allegedly supposed to be restrained: there were to be no troops on the ground and military operations were supposed to protect civilians, primarily in Benghazi. However, the plan would still need troops, and the U.S. and NATO simply used what assets were available: al-Qaeda and radical Salafi jihadists.

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