Global jihad and the fate of 2 Libyan brothers

One brother joined the global jihad against the West under the nom de guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi. He rose to become al-Qaeda's brightest star and second-in-command, until an American drone strike killed him in Pakistan four months ago.

The other brother, Abdel Wahab Mohamed Qaid, was the first to become an Islamist militant but is now a moderate member of Libya's new Parliament.

As the United States weighs responses to the Islamist-led assault on its diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Qaid says the two brothers' diverging paths trace a timely lesson: a parable of the dangers of treating the many different strands of political Islam as a single radical threat.

Abu Yahya's support for al-Qaeda, Qaid said, began after his years as a prisoner at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — an account supported by Western analysts who have studied Abu Yahya's life.

Both brothers had previously shunned Osama Bin Laden and the cause of global jihad as irrelevant to their single-minded focus on ousting the Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. But then, after the 9/11 attacks, and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Americans began rounding up any Islamist militants they could find, regardless of their specific ideology or agenda; Abu Yahya was captured in Pakistan and imprisoned without trial at Bagram.

When he finally escaped in 2005, picking a prison lock and evading his guards, Abu Yahya — originally known as Mohamed Hassan Qaid — was reborn as the leading theologian, propagandist and battlefield commander of an Islamic holy war against the West that left little room for local concerns like the struggle for Libyan democracy.

The older Qaid, who is 45 and is speaking publicly for the first time, argued that Abu Yahya had been drawn into battle with the US mainly because its military had treated him as an enemy. The vast majority of young Libyans, including many armed Islamists, now feel warmly toward America for its support against Gaddafi, Qaid said. "When they see they are lumped together with al-Qaeda, even those unsympathetic to it will become more sympathetic, and this would be the best gift you could ever give to al-Qaeda," Qaid said, charging that many Americans often treated all Islamists as shades of al-Qaeda.

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