Following are excerpts from an interview with Lieut.-Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander of Libyan ground forces, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on August 28, 2011:
Interviewer: Some Libyans are asking: Is it true that some of the extremist Islamic groups are within the ranks of the rebels? They are afraid of the Islamist extremists. Is this indeed the case? Have the extremists joined the rebel groups, or in some other way reached influential positions in the army and the rebel forces?
Khalifa Haftar: There is no such thing in the army, but naturally, we are all Muslims. Many people consider anyone with a beard to be an extremist. No, they are all Muslims, moderate people, who take the middle ground. But this does not mean that…
I was asked this question once. I was asked: Do you have Al-Qaeda groups among you? My response was: If there were Al-Qaeda groups here in Libya, I would not be here. Now, however, three or fourth months later, I realize that we definitely have extremist groups, and this regrettable extremism is not in the interests of the Libyans. I do not think that the Libyan people will accept this extremism, because it might lead people into something that is unacceptable.
But I think that there are very few such groups. At the end of the day, they are Libyans, who share the same country with us. But ultimately, we must reach an understanding with them. There are people who are capable of persuading them. We think that we can persuade them, and the problem of extremism in Libya will come to an end, because all the Libyans are moderate.