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Al-Qaeda sets up 'Islamic emirate' in eastern Libya

TRIPOLI — Agence France-Presse | 2/23/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Al-Qaeda has set up an Islamic emirate in Derna, in eastern Libya, headed by a former U.S. prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, the country's deputy foreign minister told EU ambassadors in Tripoli.

Al-Qaeda has set up an Islamic emirate in Derna, in eastern Libya, headed by a former U.S. prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, the country's deputy foreign minister told EU ambassadors in Tripoli.

However, residents in the city have told reporters there is no substance to these rumors, which they claim the Libyan government is sowing to "scare Europe."

"Al-Qaeda has established an emirate in Derna led by Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, a former Guantanamo detainee," Khaled Khaim said.

"They have an FM radio station and have begun to impose the burqa" (head-to-toe covering for women) and have "executed people who refuse to cooperate with them."

Khaim said Hasadi has a lieutenant, "also a member of al-Qaeda and named Kheirallah Baraassi" in al-Baida.

Derna is the capital of a province by the same name in the region of Cyrenaica, some 1,250 kilometers east of Libya's capital Tripoli. Al-Baida lies about 100 kilometers west of Derna.

Earlier, Italian Foreign Minister Francesco Franco Frattini said embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had lost control of Cyrenaica and shared reports that an Islamic emirate had been declared there.

Speaking at a meeting in Rome organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Christian organization, Frattini said here had been recent proclamations in Cyrenaica that it was now an Islamic emirate and calls to break with the West.

"It is a worrying developments if radical Islam is only a few hundred kilometers away from the European Union's front door, but nothing can justify the violent death of hundreds of innocent civilians," he added.

But residents in Derna told reporters on the spot that while there was some Islamic presence in the city, talk of an emirate was not true.

One resident said claims of an al-Qaeda-led emirate "was something to scare Europe with."

Others said the area is known to be devout and that rumor of an emirate have been pushed on state-controlled radio since Tuesday.

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