In one of three interviews yesterday, Mr Obama said the rebels were "saying the right things" so far. "Most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors, people who appear to be credible," he told CBS.
A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.
Western and Arab officials say the example set by young Arabs seeking peaceful political change is a counterweight to al-Qaeda's push for violent militancy and weakens its argument that democracy and Islam are incompatible.
But al-Awlaki, who has been linked to a series of terrorist plots, said the removal of anti-Islamist autocrats meant Islamic fighters and scholars were now freer to discuss and organise.
"Our mujahideen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation," he wrote, using a term that refers generally to Islamic guerrilla groups or holy warriors.
"For the scholars and activists of Egypt to be able to speak again freely, it would represent a great leap forward for the mujahideen", wrote Awlaki, who is believed to be hiding in Southern Yemen.