AFP- March 27, 2011
Their bodies are broken — as broken as their loyalty now to their one-time leader Muammer Gaddafi, whom they say lied to push them into battle against rebellious compatriots in eastern Libya.
Three of them are soldiers in Gaddafi’s army, wounded and taken prisoner in different locations a week ago by rebels.
They were lying in beds in a guarded room in a hospital in Benghazi, sleeping, praying and reflecting on how they ended up being cared for by a compassionate enemy that in no way resembled Al-Qaeda, Israel’s Mossad or the foreign terrorists Gaddafi’s officers had said awaited them.
And they were keen to talk to the media.
Azoumi Ali Mohammed, 25, said he was a reservist taken on March 20 after coalition warplanes bombed his convoy of more than 400 Libyan troops and African mercenaries on a desert road leading from the eastern city of Ajdabiya.
“The planes hit us as soon as we headed out. I saw two people die in front of me. After that I don’t know what happened,” he said. He showed his bandaged right leg where he was wounded by shrapnel.
Their orders had been to secure the area, and to “fight mercenaries and Al-Qaeda,” he said.
“I was shocked” to discover the enemy was in fact fellow Libyans, he said, explaining that all their mobile phones had been confiscated in Tripoli to prevent them having outside communications.
Mohammed said that now he had seen the rebellion, and been cared for by its doctors, “I know I want to fight against Gaddafi’s forces.”
Mustafa Mohammed Ali, a 40-year-old career soldier, survived being shot six times in a rebel ambush as he was driving out of Ajdabiya on March 18. He told AFP he wanted to tell his story and let his family know he was alive.
Three comrades with him, in a four-wheel-drive vehicle flying the green flag of the Gaddafi regime, were killed.
They had been told agents of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service had fomented unrest by hiring Tunisian, Egyptian and Syrian fighters on hallucinogenic drugs.
“I was loyal (to Gaddafi). Now I’m not, after finding out the truth about the fighting,” he said.
“In Benghazi I found young people making a revolution to escape from the darkness they were living in,” he said.
Like Mohammed, Ali said the rebels had told him he would be released to return home after Gaddafi was toppled.
Ali said his loyalty, too, had switched sides. “Why not? Gaddafi is just one person. But the country is important.”
Even more badly wounded was Wanis Ibrahim Hassan, a 30-year-old who had been in the crew of a tank that had made its way into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on March 19 with orders to take the airport.
He had jumped out of the tank as rebels targeted it with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
The blast took out a metal railing behind him, driving smoking hot metal pieces deep into his back, breaking his right arm in several places, wounding his head and ripping into his legs.
He gave an inconsistent story, saying initially he had wanted to escape en route to Benghazi because he “did not want to fire on innocent people in front of me.”
But then he said he had been convinced he was mobilised to fight terrorists.
Mohammed, the young reservist, said that Hassan “is wounded in the head — he tells a different story every time.”
Although one armed guard and another rebel were present, the atmosphere was relaxed and free of signs of coercion. The prisoners laughed and joked freely with the rebels.
Staff at the hospital were happy to bring journalists to see the men, although they were clear about their responsibilities.
“I am taking care of them because they are human beings, and because I’m a Muslim,” said a doctor examining X-rays of one of the patients.