Libya has released the jailed leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a radical group that had ties to al Qaeda but renounced militant thinking last year, a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday.
AFP - Libya has freed 214 Islamists from prison, including three top figures of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi said on Tuesday.
"Today, the Libyan state announces the liberation of 214 prisoners from different Islamist groups among which are 34 members of the LIFG, including the three leaders of the group" -- top boss Abdelhakim Belhaj, military chief, Khaled Shrif and ideological official Sami Saadi, Seif al-Islam told a press conference in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
"With the release of these leaders, we have brought to a conclusion our programme of dialogue and reconciliation," he added, in reference to a policy of reaching out to Islamists begun in 2007 by the Kadhafi Foundation, which he heads.
"Since the beginning of this programme, 705 Islamists have been freed, while 409 are still in prison, and 232 of them will be set free soon," Islam added.
In 2007, Al-Qaeda announced that the LIFG had joined the jihadist network. But last year, the Kadhafi Foundation announced that Islamists being held in Libyan prisons that had previously had links with Al-Qaeda had renounced those ties.
"This is an historic event," Islam said, adding that the authorities would continue releasing prisoners until all those still in jail are freed.
In October, 88 Libyan Islamists were freed, including 45 members of the LIFG.
Islam said a total of 165 security forces had been killed over the years in clashes with the Islamists, while 177 insurgents had also died.
"We are at the point of bringing to an end a tragic period" in the history of the country.
The LIFG had once been directed from Central Asia by Abu Laith al-Libi, one of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, who was killed in a 2008 US missile strike in the tribal zone of northwest Pakistan.
The group was created in the early 1990s from among Libyans who had been in Afghanistan to combat Soviet invaders in the 1980s and had stayed on there after the Soviets pulled out.
It announced its existence in 1995, saying its objective was to overthrow the regime headed by Kadhafi and replace it with a radical Islamic one.
Date created : 2010-03-24