Fmr. CIA officer sees potential for problems in Libya

Libyan citizens stand atop a destroyed armored vehicle at Al-Katiba military base, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday Feb. 24, 2011. In cities across the east, residents rose up and overwhelmed government buildings and army bases, joined in many cases by local army units that defected. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

February 24, 2011 9:14:29 PM PST
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is now blaming protests in his country on al Qaeda. Gadhafi took to the airwaves, claiming Libyan young people are being corrupted by Osama bin Laden's followers and going so far as to suggest followers of bin Laden are putting drugs in the coffee of Libya's young people. But a former CIA senior officer who tracked bin Laden says the idea that Islamic extremists could take over in Libya is far from crazy.

After more than four decades in power, Gadhafi is fighting his own people to hang on. The anti-Gadhafi uprising that started in the country's second largest city of Benghazi has now spread to the capitol and much of the rest of the country. Tripoli remains under Gadhafi's control, but witnesses say it is a ghost town.

In a rambling phone call to Libya's state-run television, Gadhafi told a news anchor Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are to blame.

"Our children have been manipulated by al Qaeda, which is called the international terrorism," Gadhafi said.

A former CIA senior officer in charge of tracking bin Laden before Sept. 11 says it is likely al Qaeda is happy with what is transpiring in Libya, but any involvement would be very low key.

"Why would you advertise it at this time when things are going your way?" Michael Scheuer asked.

Scheuer authored a book on bin Laden and contrary to other analysts, he does not see the uprising as pro-democracy. Scheuer believes that view is naive.

"And I think its Pollyannish and I think it's very dangerous to America because things are going towards Islam, they are not going toward secular democracy in all of these countries," Scheuer said.

Thursday, Libyan state television broadcast pictures of a dozen men lying bound and blindfolded on the ground. There were identified as Egyptians who had confessed to plotting operations against Gadhafi.

As violence continues, foreigners are fleeing the country. Thousands descended on the port of Benghazi to get on a British ship headed for Malta.

The uprising in Libya has cut that countries oil production in half, driving oil prices briefly up over $100 a barrel. President Obama says Americans can ride it out.

Also Thursday, another oil producing nation, Algeria, ended a 19-year long state of emergency. The president called it a positive sign that the government of Algeria is responding to the concerns of its people.

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