Rebel army chief is veteran Gaddafi foe--think-tank

Fri Apr 1, 2011 4:07pm GMT

* Khalifa Hefta backed Gaddafi's 1969 coup

* Commanded anti-Gaddafi "exile army" for many years

* Hefta helped lead Libyan troops in Libya-Chad war

LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - The military chief of Libya's rebels is a veteran Arab nationalist guerrilla foe of Muammar Gaddafi with past backing from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to a U.S. think-tank.

Khalifa Hefta is a former military commander who supported the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi to power and became a member of Gaddafi's policy-making Revolutionary Command Council before breaking with him in 1987, the Jamestown Foundation said.

He has lived for the past 20 years in America, said a foundation research paper written by Derek Henry Flood, editor of Jamestown's Militant Leadership Monitor publication. It transliterates Hefta's name as Haftar.

"Today, as Colonel Haftar finally returns to the battlefields of North Africa with the objective of toppling Gaddafi, his former co-conspirator from Libya's 1969 coup, he may stand as the best liaison for the United States and allied NATO forces in dealing with Libya's unruly rebels," it said.

"The challenge before Colonel Haftar is whether he can graft his experience and know-how from wars and ideologies past onto a young movement already in disarray."   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.