The black flag of Al Qaeda was raised on the roof of the Benghazi courthouse in Libya yesterday as Nato formally ended its military campaign. The Benghazi courthouse was used by rebel forces to establish a provisional government and a media centre.
After Benghazi fell to the rebels, the courthouse became the headquarters of the fledgling leadership. They barricaded the main doors with wooden logs and set up a rudimentary government on the first floor, from where they worked tirelessly to organise the remainder of the eight-month revolution.
The Al Qaeda trademark flag with Arabic writing and a moon design has been spotted on the courthouse several times, prompting denials from the National Transitional Council that it was responsible.
There are reports extremists have been seen on Benghazi’s streets at night, waving the Al Qaeda flag and shouting “Islamiya, Islamiya! No East, nor West”.
Since taking the country, Libya’s new rulers have imposed sharia law. Sharia law is a form of hardline Islamic rule favoured by fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Libya’s interim leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, declared that sharia will be the ‘basic source’ of legislation. The chairman of the National Transitional Council has also declared the country’s future parliament will have an ‘Islamist tint’.
Mr Abdul-Jalil insists ‘that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims’, and that the proposed constitution is ‘temporary’ and will be put to a referendum – but he gave a speech saying any law that ‘violates sharia’ is ‘null and void’.
Libyan men will now be free to take more than one wife, a policy branded a ‘disaster for women’ by Adelrahman al-Shatr, a founder of the newly-formed centre-right Party of National Solidarity.
Mr Adelrahman al-Shatr said: “By abolishing the marriage law, women lose the right to keep the family home if they divorce. It is a disaster for Libyan women.”
A spokesman for a group called Women Living Under Muslim Laws said: “Women are directly targeted by this change in laws and will lose many acquired rights in the process.”
A sudden jump toward extremism will alarm many in the West who supported the removal of Colonel Gaddafi.
UK Prime minister, David Cameron was himself an important element in pushing the UN towards authorising the mission in March to protect civilians in the civil war which has thus far been successful.
The possibility of Libya becoming an extreme Islamic republic threatens to embarrass the UK PM who pushed vigorously for the campaign to free Libya from Colonel Gaddafi’s control.