Even as chaos reigned on Tripoli following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi from power, hundreds of Islamic militants were freed from a Libyan jail this week, according to reports.

Quoting a former Libyan jihadist, CNN reported that as many as 600 militants have been freed from Tripoli's Abu Salim prison in the melee that broke out after the liberation of the capital from pro-Gaddafi forces.

Many of the Islamists had been detained by the Gaddafi government during the height of the Iraq insurgency. Libya's prisons were full to the brim in recent months after the Gaddafi regime detained thousands of people who took part in the anti-government protests.

Noman Benotman, who was once a senior figure in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, told CNN that many of the militants released in the aftermath of the regime fall are pro-al Qaeda.

Nobody knows what these released prisoners are going to do next ... Will they take part in the fighting and if they do will they join pre-existing rebel brigades or form a separate fighting force? said Benotman.

Islamist forces had played an important role in the anti-Gaddafi move that finally culminated in his toppling, but the recent developments have alarmed the West. It is feared that a regime change would give considerable influence to the Islamist forces in the country. Islamists had a tough time under Gaddafi, and thousands of radicals had been rounded up since 2003.

Prisoners lodged in the Abu Salim prison were released on Wednesday after rebel forces gained control of the area.