Libya’s turmoil, al-Qaida presence ‘no surprise,’ says White House [VIDEO]
Weekend media reports showed al-Qaida’s flag flying in central Benghazi, and noted that Libyan anti-aircraft missiles had been purchased by terror groups, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the administration has not been surprised by news reports from Libya.
“I’m not aware of anything that has been reported that has surprised us out of Libya,” Carney said during a morning press briefing.
White House officials have not responded to The Daily Caller’s request for an explanation of Carney’s statement.
The news follows the Oct. 22 announcement by the transitional Libyan leader that the country would discard current divorce laws in favor of archaic Islamic laws that allow polygamy and easy divorce for men.
A CNN report on Saturday showed al-Qaida’s black flag flying over the Benghazi courthouse, which was one of the rebellion’s starting points.
The black flag is used by jihadi groups, including al-Qaida, and typically depicts words from the Islamic prayer, dubbed the Shahada. “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” says the prayer.
A Libyan reporter, Sherif Elhelwa, posted pictures of the flag at the courthouse, and also quoted a guard threatening him. “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue. I recommend that you don’t publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself,” the guard said, according to Elhelwa.
Last Thursday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Libyan anti-aircraft missiles had already been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. (RELATED: Al-Qaida plants its flag — literally — in Libya)
The missiles were bought from Russia by former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The missiles were looted from Libyan army bases following the March intervention by a NATO-led coalition in the civil war. U.S. and NATO aircraft destroyed Gadhafi’s armed forces and allowed the lightly-armed rebels to capture the weapon depots. The U.S. did not deploy ground forces that could have captured the missiles before they were taken by the smugglers.
White House officials have announced a small effort to buy back the stolen missiles, which can be used to shoot down unprotected passenger airliners. The stocks may have included 20,000 missiles, but some were destroyed during the war and others have been secured by Libya’s transitional government, White House officials said in October.
On Sunday, Libya’s interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, also announced that international organizations are helping to remove a stockpile of chemical weapons. “It is in our interest to have no weapons in Libya,” he told reporters “[and] there are international organizations taking care of this issue,” he said, according to an AP report.
The previous Sunday, Oct. 22, the head of Libya’s Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, abruptly announced that Islamic law, or Sharia, would provide the “basic source” of Libyan law. “This revolution was looked after by Allah to achieve victory,” he said to a celebratory crowd in Benghazi.
Libyans are slated to approve or disprove a proposed constitution in June 2012, prior to elections for a new government.
U.S. officials have repeatedly evaded questions about the intentions of the new leaders in Libya. “We have a good, we believe, feeling for and understanding of [the TNC],” Carney said Oct. 20, shortly after Gadhafi’s death was announced.
Follow Neil on Twitter