Libyan Cleric seen as barrier to reunification and fight against ISIS

Islamic State opposes the ruling alliance of moderate and Islamist leaders.

An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna’s Islamic Youth Council drives along a road in the town of Derna in eastern Libya on October 3, 2014, a day after the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna’s Islamic Youth Council drives along a road in the town of Derna in eastern Libya on October 3, 2014, a day after the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI, Libya— Officials in Libya’s new United Nations-backed unity government are warning a top Muslim cleric that they will send his name to Interpol along with 16 other politicians and militia leaders on charges of supporting terrorism and impeding Libya’s transition to democracy.

The move comes one day after Grand Mufti Sadiq Ghariani “advised” Prime Minister-designate Fayez Al-Sarraj and seven representatives of the recently formed Presidential Council to leave the capital or face “grave consequences.”
“Our fighters [Islamist militias] have sufficient weapons to sustain a jihad for another ten years,” said Ghariani. “The Government of National Accord that arrived in Tripoli came aboard a foreign frigate and was escorted by foreign forces.”
Libyan TV footage contradicts the mufti with video showing the arrival of its own vessel, the Assaddadah, with the Presidential Council disembarking at Tripoli's Abositaa naval base. Ghariani has emerged as a formidable opponent to Al-Sarraj and the internationally backed team working to reassemble the shattered Libyan state.
Following a civil war that ended with the fall of ex-dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the North African country descended into a second civil war that has split it into three zones. Internationally- recognized moderate leaders controlled Tobruk in eastern Libya, Islamists controlled Tripoli in the west and the Islamic State controlled central Libya from Sirte. After fighting each other for a year, the moderate and Islamist leaders have banded together to create a new government whose executive is the nine-member Presidential Council.
The Islamic State opposes their alliance. Appointed grand mufti in 2012 by Libyan officials overseeing a short-lived transitional government following Qaddafi’s death, Ghariani has not pledged fealty to ISIS, but he insists that Libya must be governed under Sharia law. “Non- Muslims should not be involved in settlement of disputes in interpretation of political agreement provisions, even as consultants,” said Ghariani, dismissing 16 months of effort by the UN to help Libya put together a cohesive government.

On Thursday, Al-Sarraj called for Libyans to come together and unite to confront the Islamic State. His threat to put Ghariani and his backers on the Interpol watch list is part of an effort to assert his new government’s authority in the capital. The list also includes top officials from the rival parliaments in Tripoli and Tobruk who continue to undermine the unity government’s efforts.

“The Council is here to stay and to continue their work here in Tripoli,” said Brigadier General Abdulrahman Tawil, who has been charged with implementation of the government’s security plan from its headquarters at the Abu Sitta Military Base. The plan calls on rival militias to stay in their camps while the new government creates a new integrated security force out of the former rivals’ troops. Libyan moderates revile the Grand Mufti due to a series of harsh religious edicts he’s issued and enforced with the help of jihadi militias in the west of the country.

Amal Alhaj, a Tripoli area English language instructor told The Media Line that she had to flee to Tunis after receiving death threats for refusing to comply with the mufti’s edicts. “Treason is worse than murder and Ghariani is now heading sedition against this country and needs to behind bars,” said Alhaj who described Ghariani as a "dangerous lunatic".
Ghariani’s fatwas include orders for women instructors to wear the niqqab face covering even if they are teaching pre-pubescent males and a decree mandating gender segregation at universities. The 74-year-old cleric fled Britain in August 2014 after British authorities discovered he was directing the Islamist Libya Dawn militia takeover of Tripoli. Qatar and Sudan have shipped weapons to Libya Dawn, a group that’s been drawing the ire of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which are regional opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups.
A February UN Human rights report said that while all sides in Libya’s conflict are suspected of committing war crimes, Libya Dawn and the mufti ranked alongside Islamic State for its mistreatment of women. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human documented the case of one woman who was abducted in Tripoli by Libya Dawn. She reported being drugged and raped repeatedly over six month period. The victim also provided information to UN investigators that alleged that Libyan Dawn fighters had raped girls as young as 11 years old.
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