Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. “Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there.”
The “covert operation” was immediately laid bare when a rival Libyan rebel brigade detained Belhaj at Tripoli airport, accused him of travelling on a fake passport, and declared they would jail the senior military leader.
Only a letter from the country’s interim president was enough to persuade them to let him leave the country.
The meetings came as a sign of a growing ties between Libya’s fledgling government and the Syrian opposition. The Daily Telegraph on Saturday revealed that the new Libyan authorities had offered money and weapons to the growing insurgency against Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Belhaj also discussed sending Libyan fighters to train troops, the source said. Having ousted one dictator, triumphant young men, still filled with revolutionary fervour, are keen to topple the next. The commanders of armed gangs still roaming Tripoli’s streets said yesterday that “hundreds” of fighters wanted to wage war against the Assad regime.
“Everyone wants to go. We have liberated our country, now we should help others,” said the commander of the ‘Fighting Village’ brigade, “This is freedom. This is Arab unity”.
Increasing volumes of video footage have been uploaded to YouTube of Syrians calling on Libyans to join their fight. In a clip backed by dramatic musical effects, a veiled Syrian woman entreats men from Misurata, the west Libyan city that fought off a month-long siege by forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi, to come to save her country.
“We cannot say no to a woman,” said Misurata rebel Lutfy el-Amin. “Many men are readying themselves. If they can they will go to join the fight”.
Members of the Free Syrian Army on the borders of Lebanon and Turkey denied rumours circulating in Tripoli that “hundreds” of Libyans had tried to cross into Syria.
Newspapers reported on Saturday that four Libyan men had been caught on the Turkish border trying to infiltrate into the country. The grand design envisioned by Mr Belhaj and the Libyan authorities is still in its nascent stage.