Libyan-Irish commander resigns as deputy head of Tripoli military council

Tue, Oct 11, 2011, 01:00

THE LIBYAN-IRISH commander who led the main anti-Gadafy brigade into Tripoli in August has resigned from his position as deputy head of the Tripoli Military Council. Mahdi al-Harati’s decision to step down from the council which had worked to establish control of the Libyan capital after it fell to revolutionary forces comes amid growing tensions over long-term security in the city.

The Tripoli Military Council is headed by the controversial Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former leader of the now defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a militant organisation that posed the greatest threat to Col Gadafy in the 1990s.

Fighters from some revolutionary brigades, mostly those from outside Tripoli who have remained in the city since late August, say they are not willing to recognise the council or Mr Belhaj.

Mr Harati, an Arabic teacher who moved to Ireland almost 20 years ago and who lives in Dublin with his Irish-born wife and family, could not be reached for comment last night. He returned to Ireland earlier this week to visit his family in the south Dublin suburb of Firhouse. One of his associates in Tripoli told The Irish Times Mr Harati had tendered his resignation last Friday for “personal reasons”.

CNN, however, quoted a senior official in Libya’s interim government as saying Mr Harati had resigned due to “differences with the National Transitional Council on the planning of the security of Tripoli”. Mohamed Sayeh told the channel: “We are the official governing body and the efforts of the revolutionaries that fought for the liberation are appreciated but the command must be centralised.”

He said NTC officials were trying to convey that message to the revolutionary brigades “in a democratic, brotherly manner”.

Fathi al-Wersali, a senior member of the Tripoli Military Council, said Mr Harati would continue as commander of the Tripoli brigade, which Mr Harati established soon after arriving in Libya in the wake of the February uprising that tipped into armed revolt against the Gadafy regime.

Mr Harati’s brigade is the largest of the anti-Gadafy units that swept into Tripoli on August 21st. It counts several thousand men within its ranks and contains many expatriate Libyans, including several from Ireland.

Mr Harati’s Irish-born brother-in-law Hosam al-Najjair, who lives in Dublin’s Portobello, is the brigade’s head of security.

In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Mr Harati said his priority was helping to ensure stability in post-Gadafy Libya.

“My agenda, for the time being, is to help gather and unite people until the country is stable, and there my role will finish and I will go back to my home and family,” he said. Asked if he had political ambitions, Mr Harati replied: “No, but I might go for it only if people need me, and ask me to.”