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article imageOp-Ed: Former Gadaffi air force chief said to return to Libya

By Ken Hanly     Jun 19, 2017 in World
Gaddafi's last commander of his air force Ali Sharif Al-Rifi fled Libya in 2011 but is now reported to have returned to his home town of Waddan in the Al-Jufra area.
Al-Rifi fled in 2011 as Tripoli fell. He is thought to have fled over the border into Niger where he met the Tuareg leader and Gaddafi loyalist Ali Kana. Al-Rifi had previously served in the 1986-87 war with Chad, during which Khalifa Hafta,r now commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), was captured. The LNA are the armed forces of the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government. After being captured, Haftar and his mean were abandoned by Gaddafi. At the time, Al-Rifi had been a ground forces commander during the war, organizing logistics and reinforcements from the central desert area of Al-Kufra.
Al-Rifi later moved to the Niger capital Niamey where he was a close associate of Saadi Gaddafi the third son of Moammar Gaddafi the former Libyan leader. On the the fifth of March of 2014 Saadi was arrested in Niger and extradited to Libya to face murder charges. His lawyer Nick Kaufman protested that it was doubtful if the process was legal as it was not clear that there was any court hearing or if Gaddafi was allowed a lawyer. In August 2015 video appeared that purported to show Saadi being tortured in prison in Libya. It is not known if at the time of Saadi's arrest if Al-Rifi stayed in Niger.
The second son of Gaddafi Saif al-Islam is also apparently free in Libya. He was released from prison in Zintan by the brigade that held him allegedly under an amnesty law passed by the House of Representatives. However, this was over a week ago and there have been no confirmed reports of his whereabouts. Former security chief Abduallah Senussi and other regime figures were also released from Habda prison and are thought to be free in Tripoli.
Back in March, the head of the Libyan National Army’s air force Major-General Saqr Geroushi is reported to have suffered a heart attack and to have been put in intensive care in Marj hospital. Geroushi has been one of Haftar's right hand men since the start of Haftar's Operation Dignity in May of 2014. He has had the heart condition for some time and had been in Jordan for treatment for part of 2016. Now that Al-Rifi is back in Libya he may perhaps take on some of the duties of Geroushi if he is still recovering. Members of the old Gadaffi regime appear to be welcomed back by Haftar and some may play a key role in Libya's future if Haftar has his way.
A recent tweet confirms the return of Al-Rifi showing his return to an airbase in al-Jufra: "Ali Sharif Al-Rifi, Kadhafi’s airforce commander, arriving in Jufrah airbase. He fled in Niger in 2011 then Egypt & came back in east Libya."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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