News / Middle East

Who Are the Libyan Rebels?

National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, speaks during a press conference at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, August 20, 2011
National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, speaks during a press conference at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, August 20, 2011

Over the past several months, one Western nation after another turned against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and recognized the opposition Transitional National Council as Libya's legitimate government. Recognition of the TNC's role came despite lingering questions about the group's composition and its plans for Libya's future.

In announcing U.S. recognition of the TNC July 15, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the group as "the legitimate governing authority for Libya."  

The recognized leader of the TNC is Mustafa Abdul Jalil, a judge from the eastern Libyan town of al-Bayida who in recent years had regularly criticized Gadhafi's government. He resigned as Libya's justice minister in February when the uprising against Gadhafi's nearly 42 years of autocratic rule began after protests that swept neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

Images of Libya's key players

As the rebels surged into the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Monday, Jalil proclaimed, "The Gadhafi era is over."

Two other men have proved important in representing the rebels to the outside world: Mahmoud Jebril, who as head of the country's National Economic Development Council had fostered privatization of state-run industries, and Ali Aziz al-Eisawi, who was the country's ambassador to India and was the first of Gadhafi's envoys to resign.

The TNC has 31 members, but only 13 were identified in the early stages of the uprising. The rest remained secret for security reasons, but were believed to be dissidents living in the western part of Libya that until recently was under Mr. Gadhafi's control.

The TNC had a clear mission in mind, declaring at its inception in early March that it faced a turning point in the country's history. The Council said it could "achieve freedom and race to catch up with humanity" or could remain "shackled and enslaved under the feet of the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi."

Now the rebels are on the cusp of achieving their goal of ending Gadhafi's rule.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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