"There is no God but Allah," read the black flag with a full moon fluttering atop the key government building, which served as the rebel regime’s headquarters throughout much of the eight-month civil war. The first media outlet to publicize the banner also noted that Islamists could be seen throughout the city flying the al Qaeda flag and shouting Muslim slogans.
When a photographer with Vice.com approached the courthouse to take pictures of the flag, a guard came out and warned him to stop. “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue,” the camouflaged security officer said. “I recommend that you don't publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself.”
The Libyan revolutionary also insisted the flag on the courthouse was dark black, while al Qaeda’s flag was charcoal black. Locals urged the photographer to leave too, saying Islamist fighters could be watching him.
Despite assurances by Western leaders that the NATO-backed revolution would result in “democracy,” Sharia law is already being harshly enforced in cities across the nation, according to news reports. As The New American has been reporting for months, senior Islamic extremists — many of whom are associated with al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — are in top positions within the emerging new regime.
Even the members of the National Transitional Council (NTC) who are not affiliated with Islamic militancy — mostly former Gadhafi officials — are backing the nation’s shift toward strict Islamism. And it’s now official.
“We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government,” noted ex-Gadhafi “Justice” Minister and NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil during a recent celebration of the late tyrant’s execution. “The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.” Any laws that conflict with Islam, such as Gadhafi’s ban on polygamy, are "null and void legally," Jalil explained.
Meanwhile, chaos and bloodshed are rampant. Militias are still terrorizing remaining residents of areas thought to have supported the Gadhafi regime. Whole towns like Tawergha, populated largely by black Libyans who supported the regime, have already been wiped off the map. And Human Rights Watch warned in a recent report that former residents of the town are still being hunted down.
The revolutionary militia fighters are shooting it out amongst themselves, too. According to the U.K. Telegraph, hundreds of armed revolutionaries were battling each other on Monday outside a Tripoli hospital.
Loyalist fighters are also still staging attacks on revolutionary forces as anger over atrocities committed by both sides during the civil war boils over. Even neutral parties who suffered at the hands of rebel fighters have taken up arms against the new regime, according to media accounts.
Gadhafi and the remnants of his regime are thought to have distributed vast stockpiles of weapons and wealth so anti-revolutionary forces could wage what the despot promised would be a long-lasting insurgency. Many of those fighters fled to the desert and are staging surprise attacks on roaming bands of militiamen.
The ongoing battles have sparked widespread speculation that the bloody conflicts will continue to rage far into the future. And as the NTC tries to disarm the population, not even revolutionaries have agreed to disarm, much less opponents of the new government or loyalists fearful of revenge attacks.
Advanced weaponry including anti-aircraft missiles has also fallen into the hands of known terrorist organizations. The deadly stockpiles are turning up all over the region, but it remains unclear how much firepower has been smuggled out of the country so far.
But the Obama administration, which offered repeated assurances that backing the rebels was the best course of action, is not surprised. “I’m not aware of anything that has been reported that has surprised us out of Libya,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a press briefing Monday as reports of the unfolding chaos were dominating the headlines.
Photos: Top: the al Qaeda flag; bottom: The Ottoman flag is raised during Mawlid celebrations in Benghazi in 1896.