The Libyan National Transitional Council has chosen a Tripoli businessman to head the interim governing authority and help shepherd the country’s political transition from its Gadhafi-era dictatorship to its first elections.
Abdul Rahmin El Keeb won a simple majority of the votes cast by the 54 members of the NTC, beating out several other candidates who had been culled from the running after they lost in earlier rounds of voting Monday evening.
Mr. Elkeeb spent many years in exile outside Libya, but played a significant role in financing the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi and organizing the underground rebellion inside Tripoli this summer, when the capital was struggling to shake off the tight grip of the regime’s troops and intelligence agents.
He will take the place of Mahmoud Jibril, who has headed the rebel-led governing authority throughout the revolt and is credited with receiving foreign recognition for the NTC and building tight relationships between the NTC and North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries.
Mr. Elkeeb is expected to form a new cabinet in coming days, while the NTC legislative body discusses a formula to expand its ranks from its current number to at least 70 members, according to Libyan officials.
The NTC is now in a period of expansion, bringing in representatives from all parts of Libya, including areas of the country that won independence from the Gadhafi regime early in the struggle that began in February and areas that were the last to fall, such as the former ruler’s hometown of Sirte, which the NTC fighters gained control of only two weeks ago.
Mr. Jibril, the departing prime minister, has suggested increasing the size of the legislative body to 120 members to include both regional representatives as well as officials from key segments of society, such as women, young people and the military councils that control security in each Libyan municipality.
Since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, over 180 independent newspapers have sprung up in Libya, like flowers in the desert after a rare downpour. Like desert flowers, most will die.
Yet a few that aren’t simple opinion sheets, which instead contain news and features and are more professionally run, will survive. One such is Al-Kalima (The Word) and one of its regular contributors is Amal Omar Shennib.
Born in 1935, she is not only the oldest Libyan woman writer but also the first. At age 15, before the country gained independence, she wrote for a magazine simply called Libya. Today, she often writes about the lost Libya, the Libya that Qaddafi hated and in true Stalinist style erased all reference to in books and the media: The Libya between independence in 1951 and 1969 when he seized power and abolished the monarchy.
“We knew nothing about that period; we’re only finding out about it now,” said Abdel Halim, a young Libyan university student whom Arab News later met in downtown Tripoli.
He recounted what had happened when he had visited the former royal palace there (now a museum) earlier this year while Qaddafi was still in control of the city. (The building in fact had started out as the Italian governor’s palace during the colonial period.) “I asked why there was nothing about King Idris. The guides told us they were forbidden to mention him.”
It is a story heard time and again in Libya: Young people who rose up and overthrew Qaddafi, craving to find out about the hidden past and reconnect with it.
For young Libyans, Amal provides a bridge to that past. She was intimately associated with it. Her husband, Wanis Gaddafi (no relation), was the last prime minister under King Idris. Her father, Omar Faiek Shennib, helped negotiate Libya’s independence and was head of the Royal Court as well as minister of defense in the first post-independence government. His more lasting claim to fame is that he designed the tricolor star and crescent flag that served Libya during the period of the monarchy and is now the icon of the new Libya.
Hers is a remarkable story of courage and endurance, not least because of what she and her family suffered under Qaddafi: Her husband in jail for two years, his health broken; her oldest son Majid forced to flee for his life to the US in 1977 and unable to return until 1994; her younger son Mohsen, Qaddafi’s youngest political prisoner, arrested in 1981 aged 13 and held for seven years; her brother, Abdul-Aziz Shennib, a commander in the pre-1969 Libyan army arrested in the first days after Qaddafi seizing power and imprisoned for four and a half years. He was later released and sent as ambassador to Jordan, but it was no gesture of reconciliation with the old regime. Abdul-Aziz had been at Sandhurst with King Hussein and he had orders from Qaddafi to assassinate him. Once in Amman, he told the king of the plot. He joined the opposition and later, at a press conference in Cairo, revealed that Qaddafi had murdered Lebanese cleric Musa Sadr.
Standing outside her modest house in Benghazi, no one could imagine the wealth of history within Libya. On the grand piano in the sitting room, there are silver-framed photos of her father, in dark suit and fez, like Egyptian ministers of the period, accompanying foreign dignitaries. On the table beside the sofa is a silver cigarette case with her husband’s initials “WG” on it. Other objects in the room carry the same initials.
Offering tea and cakes, Amal tells her story. She was born in Damascus where her family was in exile because of her father’s support for the freedom movement against the Italians. Back in Libya, following the defeat of the Mussolini’s forces and the country now under British military administration, she went to school where she did so well that in 1955 she was offered a place at university in Egypt. She hoped to be a doctor. At the time, she was already working as a schoolteacher, a job she continued for the next 17 years. Marriage to Wanis Gaddafi in 1956, however, put paid to her medical ambitions. She went to university in 1960 to study history and Arabic and graduated in 1964, when she became headmistress of a girls’ school.
Born in 1922 in Benghazi, Wanis was a bright star in the new independent Libya. During the Italian period, he had come to the attention of an Italian lawyer who trained him for the law. The British took over in 1942 and the young Gaddafi who became involved in the Benghazi city administration soon came to their attention. After the war, he was the offered a scholarship to Oxford but never took it up because he was recruited by the British to help in Cyrenaica’s political administration — the first Libyan they recruited. After independence in 1951, Wanis served as a provincial minister in Cyrenaica, successively of health, justice and transportation. Later, he became chairman of Cyrenaica’s executive council. In 1962, he was appointed Libyan foreign minister. Thereafter, he served in almost all Libya governments in a variety of posts apart from a brief stint as Libyan ambassador to Germany in 1964/1965. In 1967, he became foreign minister for the second time, and then, in September that year, he was appointed prime minister, a post he held until his namesake seized power a year later, on Sept. 1, 1969.
Her son, Majid, produces the formal letter from King Idris, formally appointing his father prime minister. He also produces a letter of potentially greater import. It was found among his father’s effects after Qaddafi had arrested him. It is a letter, in Arabic, from what was then the six-member European Economic Community purportedly inviting Libya to become an associate member. This was at a time that France was vetoing Britain’s attempts to join.
Two days after the coup — “it was not a revolution, it was a seizure of power,” Amal says forcibly — a soldier came to their small flat and arrested her husband. “We did not have palaces like he (Qaddafi) did.” Another forceful point.
Four months later, he was released. “He was told to stay at home,” Amal says. It was house arrest. “He said he would not go out but could not prevent anyone coming to visit us. So, they put soldiers on the door to stop anyone coming.”
In 1970, he was re-arrested and accused of letting the king leave Libya just before the coup. “How could he stop him? Idris was the king,” Amal says. The logic was wasted on the new regime. They were determined to imprison him.
The king’s departure before the coup remains the source of great speculation and conspiracy theories. Idris, a devout ascetic who lived a simple life, was not interested in day-to-day politics and had previously tried to abdicate. However, great pressure had been put on him to stay. By summer 1969, he had made up his mind. He left the country in July for Greece, ostensibly for a holiday, and in August, he issued an instrument of abdication from Athens to come into effect on Sept. 2 in favor of his nephew, Crown Prince Hassan. He then went to Turkey for medical treatment.
However, the man who was effectively chief of staff, Col. Abdelaziz Shelhi, who with brother Omar had been treated by the king as the sons he never had, had other plans. He planned a coup for Sept. 5. However, it was preempted by Qaddafi’s coup on Sept. 1. The problem was that Shelhi’s coup was widely known — so well known that when the crown prince was arrested, he reportedly asked if those arresting him were Shelhi’s men.
Those conspiracy theories, however, center around a more dramatic suggestion that the British, who had major military bases in Libya and who were very close to the Libyan army high command, backed Shelhi. They supposedly felt that a Libya led by the crown prince would soon fall into the hands of Nasserites and become a client of Egypt, and through it, the Soviet Union. They saw Shelhi as able to lead a pro-Western Libya.
The second part of this conspiracy is that the captains’ coup which preempted that of the senior officers’ was backed by the CIA. There is no evidence — although, interestingly, Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum became a close friend to the new regime. But then Hammer had some strange friends.
Amal still retains great affection for the late king. “He was a father to me.” She recalls a particular debate in 1962 when Libya amended its constitution to become a unitary state and the issue of women being allowed to vote was being hotly debated. Two politicians went to the king to put opposing cases: that women should be allowed to vote in elections to parliament, and that they should not. “The king listened,” Amal recounts, “and then said: ‘You are both wrong. They should not only be allowed to vote, they should be allowed to stand for parliament.’”
Wanis was jailed for two years for “permitting” the king to leave, and it broke his health. In 1974, at age 52, he suffered a heart attack, but was refused permission to leave the country for treatment. Amal had already quit her job as headmistress of the high school that she had helped found in 1961 in order to look after him.
Resigning had not been easy despite the new regime’s purge of all schoolteachers connected to the old one, which offered five years’ extra pension rights if they would go. Yet, when she submitted her resignation, triggered by the new regime’s decision that high school girls must wear army uniforms (something that continued in Tripoli until just weeks ago), it was refused. She was forced to stay on for another year until a replacement could be found, but without pay. Nor did she ever receive the five years’ extra pension rights.
In 1977, Amal’s eldest son, Majid, left for the US. He had been involved in the anti-Qaddafi demonstrations the previous year at Benghazi’s Gar Younis university. They had been crushed mercilessly with students killed or jailed. “The system was so much stronger than we were,” he said. “We had to leave.” He went to Portland where he studied engineering. He is grateful to the Americans. “The US was very kind to me. They helped me a lot.”
Her younger son, Mohsen, had a more horrific experience. In 1981, at age 13, he became involved in a plot against Qaddafi. The plot was discovered and its leaders executed. Others were sentenced to life imprisonment. Mohsen was jailed. He spent his 14th birthday and the next seven years in jail, as Qaddafi’s youngest political prisoner.
In 1986, Wanis Gaddafi died. For Amal, it was a terrible time. Her eldest son was far away with no prospect of ever returning, and her youngest son was in jail. He was released in 1988 but was watched continuously; it was clear that the regime had him in its sights. The family decided he had to get out of the country. He was smuggled into Tunisia, just in time. After he left, the police arrived at the house intent on arresting him. From Tunis, he headed to Egypt to resume his education but when Qaddafi normalized relations with Egypt in 1989, the Libyan opposition there felt threatened. Mohsen went to the US to join his brother.
Slowly, the system relaxed somewhat. In 1994, Majid returned to test the waters. Mohsen followed soon afterward. The family was reunited, but for Amal, there were still restrictions. She lived out of the public eye. She was not allowed to write or be published.
Then, in February, freedom came and the gentle Amal became an unlikely revolutionary. On the “Day of Rage,” called by the opposition for Feb. 17, she was there outside the Court House, the focus of the revolution. “I cried when I saw the flag, which my father designed.” It was a cold day, says her son Majid. “I was afraid she would catch cold.”
But she would not leave. “I started working immediately,” she says, writing a column for Kalima every week.
So, what are her hopes for the future? Where does she see Libya going? “I hope for the best. Anyway, we got rid of that man. At least we have our identity back,” she says.
She has no illusions that everything will be plain sailing from now on. “It’s a difficult time now,” she says, “but the difficulties will pass. We must be patient. It will take time. We cannot go back to the past, but we can now go forward.”
A woman of great dignity and deeply inspiring, she does not intend to stop writing. “I’m now an old woman, but still very active,” she says with a sparkle in her eyes.
An old woman, perhaps, but one with a very young heart.
The different spelling of the names Qaddafi/Gaddafi are deliberate. They differentiate the two characters and, in the case of Wanis, that was how he spelled it.
*The colors of the flag have a double meaning: To the black flag (with crescent and star) of Cyenaica, of which Idris was emir before the creation of Libya in 1951, was added the green to represent Tripolitania and red for Fezzan. But it also represents the black flag “Al-Uqaab” of the Prophet (pbuh) and the crescent and star representing Islam, red for the blood of those who died fighting the Italians and green for the verdant lands along the coast and in the oases
While there are no excuses for the way Gaddafi was treated in the videos posted publicly, we want to stress that those who have done this were not acting on behalf of the NTC nor the interim government. They were fighters who were swept in a moment of intense fighting, and after 8 long months of defending themselves, having lost friends and family. A full investigation of the circumstances of what happened has been officially launched and we hope its findings will be made public as soon as possible. Those acts don’t represent the majority of Libyans and don’t represent Islamic or Libyan traditional values.
There are a lot of people defending Muammer Gaddafi and his regime by stating living conditions and infrastructure in Libya was world class, and all the people in the country enjoyed unimaginable wealth. This is not true. The Gaddafi regime was rife with corruption and deception. Who you know was more important than who you were as a person, with many basic services being only available to the highest bidders.
Below, Nizar Mhani of the Free Generation Movement responds to common misconceptions relating to the Gaddafi regime – the bolded inaccurate statements are being circulated via email forward
There are no electricity bills in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.
Categorically untrue. Despite poor electricity infrastructure and poor coverage of electricity lines, even in the Capital, Libyan home owners pay monthly/quarterly (area dependant) electricity bills based on meter readings. Electricity is cut off in instances of unpaid bills. Reconnection upon payment is not instant. The electric infrastructure is weak and some areas of Libya do not have electricity available at all.
There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.
Categorically untrue. Banks all over Libya have been giving out loans for years and years. There is a percentage rate charge on all loans, which is comparable to an interest rate, but in the spirit of ‘islamic ethics’ it is not called interest, it is called an ‘Administrative Expense’ – Masareef Edareeya.
A House is considered a human right in Libya ¬ Gaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home. Gaddafi¹s father has died while he, his wife and his mother are still living in a tent.
Gaddafi abused this human right as much as he did other basic rights. It is well known in Libya that political opponents and successful business men/women had their homes confiscated and handed over to regime members, usually rewards for Free Officers – Dubat A7rar. Many farms and homes and businesses were confiscated during three infamous phases of Libyas dictatorial history:
1969 – The dreaded Green Revolution. Free Officers were rewarded land, homes, and farms that sometimes belonged to other people and the original owners were not compensated or asked if this was ok.
Late 70’s – The introduction of the law Albayt le Sakinehee – The Home Belongs to its Dwellers. As this law was passed overnight, thousands of homeowners instantly lost their homes, as tenants (those renting the homes) claimed ownership on account of being the ‘dwellers’. The law applied to homes, farms, shops, etc.
90’s – The introduction of Purification Committees (Lejnat al Tatheer). This committee ran by the widely know slogan, ‘Min ayna laka hada?’ – “From where did you obtain this?”, a form of ultra-socialism where people’s possessions, including homes and businesses, were confiscated if seen to be ‘surplus to requirement’ or contributing to a ‘monopoly’.
Regarding Gaddafis ‘vow’: While Gaddafi waited for ‘everyone in Libya’ to be housed, he himself lived in a sprawling 6km square compound in the centre of the capital which was home to state of the art security and an underground network of rooms and ultramodern bunkers. He also had a vast and well known farm on Airport Road in Tripoli. This, just in the capital.
All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.
This is a well known rumour and a common joke in Libya. Whilst it may have been passed as official legislation, I know of not a single family who has been given this grant. The backbreaking bureaucracy associated with such grants and loans make them more or less impossible to obtain.
Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.
Education and Health Care – Free does not mean adequate. It is well known that Libya’s standard of health care is nothing short of appalling. It is widely known that the majority of Libyans seeking medical care leave for neighbouring countries for treatment. Our Education system is no better. It is outdated, teachers are underpaid and under-trained and libraries are largely non-existent. The syllabus was constantly being revised and reviewed under direct instruction from the former regime e.g. banning English, changing Quranic verses, etc.
It is commonly said that Libyans would be happy to forfeit their ‘free health care’ and pay for a National Health Service if it was up to the required standard.
Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and Livestock to kick- start their farms all for free.
This has never happened, in addition to this many farms and homes have been confiscated by the government to build railroads, The Great Man Made River and civil roads.
The owners of the land were only compensated if there was a covered structure on the land as the Gaddafi regime legally owned any land and the people were only allowed to build on it. When there was compensation offered it was nowhere near the actual value of the property and many waited years to receive anything if at all. This system was also rife with corruption many residents told they had to pay a bribe to receive what little they were given.
If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it not only free but they get $2, 300/month accommodation and car allowance.
Categorically untrue. If this was the case, the former regime would have been in receipt of 6 million application forms – one for every man, women and child who ‘cannot find education or medical facilities they need’. This grant does not exist for the mainstream public. There is anectdotal evidence of some medical grants being given but again, the system was corrupt and opaque.
In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government pays 50% of the price. The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.
There is no truth to the former Gaddafi regime paying 50% of the value of a new car.
Whilst the price of fuel is indeed cheap, the quality of roads, the accuracy and availability of road signs, the presence of road traffic police, and all other transport infrastructure is of abysmal standard.
The absence of an integrated and functional public transport system means that people are reliant on their cars for all movement and might end up paying more on fuel than our neighbours around the Mediterranean basin.
Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion now frozen globally.
Whilst our sovereign wealth is undeniable, none of it was spent on the people of Libya nor the infrastructure of the country. Basic amenities, services, and state infrastructure are either absent or of appalling standard.
The availability of money is not tantamount to wealth or prosperity. The Arabs have a saying about Libya – “A rich nation of poor inhabitants.”
If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.
Categorically untrue. Even basic wages are sometimes unpaid for months, for those lucky enough to be employed. Welfare for the unemployed is non-existent.
A portion of Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.
No basis to this claim as no such case can be found.
A mother who gave birth to a child receive US $5 ,000
Categorically untrue. There is a Child Benefit welfare payment in Libya – it is roughly 15-20 Libyan Dinars a month per child. No Libyan citizen was given foreign currency as compensation.
40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15
Bread was subsidized by the state. Whilst the price varies (marginally) from shop to shop, bread usually costs ¼ dinars for 10 baguettes (small) or roughly 500grams per dinar.
25% of Libyans have a university degree
The absence of a comprehensive selection process and a corrupt entry protocol means that universities in Libya are grossly over populated and over subscribed, despite limited facilities. This results in an over inflated number of graduates, but not necessarily an adequate level of employability. There are thousands of students studying foundation year medicine in Tripoli alone.
Gaddafi carried out the world¹s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available.
The Jury is still out on this. The project has indeed supplied water to many towns and cities around Libya, but the cost is thought to be as stratastrophic as the time it took to complete this. Further, decades of an absence of appropriate licensing, monitoring and control has meant that wells were dug for every home, putting immense pressure on Libya’s natural and naturally replenishable water sources. This resulted in the increase of salinity in local water reserves, which lead to the need for an expansive project such as the Man Made River.
Thanks for Niz and Libya Outreach for putting this together.
Tyrant’s son Al-Saadi Gaddafi threw his best friend in jail for turning down his gay advances.
Reda Thawargi said he was locked up for two and-a-half years before he was released and Saadi begged him for his support to quell the uprising.
Rebels who raided married Saadi’s opulent mansion this week found gay porn DVDs in his office. The sprawling property near Tripoli has its own football pitch and outside disco, as well as an outhouse with three cell-like rooms and a caged building where Saadi is said to have set dogs on people who displeased him.
Reda said: “Saadi is gay. He tried to have sex with me but I refused. I only like girls. So he threw me in military jail.”
Reda was a close friend of the dictator’s son for 13 years.
They both played football for Tripoli’s Al Ahli football club and spent two years together in Italy drinking and partying.
However, Saadi became infuriated by Reda’s refusal to sleep with him and put him on trial in a Libyan court – but without a specific charge. Reda said: “The judge told me, ‘if Saadi says you have done wrong, then you must go to prison’.”
He was eventually freed in February.
Reda added: “When the uprising began Saadi called me to ask me to go on state TV to support him because of my fame as a footballer. I refused and hid away.
“I want to be the first to punch him now. If you find him, tell me.”
We would like to thank you all for your tremendous support throughout an unbelievable year in Libya and in our lives. When we first started feb17.info we set out with the goal to make the Libyan people’s voices heard during their fight for freedom, to gain worldwide support, to expose the ruthlessness of the Gaddafi regime, and to show the world the truth about the Libyan revolution.
We did not know if anyone would listen or care about our cause. It was difficult to predict whether it would reach one person or one thousand people. We also did not know how long the fight would last, but that all did not matter. As long as one person was hearing the truth and was able to help make a difference, it would be worth it.
A year later we are blessed to look back on it and to have been a part of history. After millions of visits to the site and support and money raised to aid Libya, we believe that we have accomplished our goal.
It comes with a heavy heart that we announce that this is the end of the road for feb17.info. We are sad to see it end, but Libya is turning a page in its history, and so are we. It is time to move beyond the computer screen and start building our country in other ways. The site will remain a historical archive of the revolution. It is a piece of history that belongs to Libya and the world.
Many of you had asked us to reveal who we are, and we considered your request with great thought. We never hid our identities for safety purposes, as we all had nothing to fear while our brothers and sisters in Libya courageously risked and lost their lives. We did so because this was bigger than just a few people. It was about all the brave people that were behind the revolution that made their story worth telling – the shopkeepers and students who defended their cities, the mothers who supported them and endured the pain of losing their children, the journalists and aid workers who came to our assistance. It was our obligation and honor to do what we could for Libya and mankind. That requires no recognition.
You all made our experience on Feb17.info worthwhile and without all of your help and support it wouldn’t have had the effect that it did. We shared in the tears and the pain throughout the difficult road, and in the laughter and celebrations of a joyous, new beginning. Thank you for allowing us to show you who Libyans truly are. We hope you continue your support as Libya rebuilds and you all one day get the chance to see the beautiful land and its people.
God bless and long live Free Libya
– The team at Feb17.info
Tripoli Street is a bullet-scarred wasteland — littered with charred cars and tanks, its cafes and offices shattered. Yet for Misrata’s civilians-turned-fighters, the boulevard is a prized trophy, paid for in blood, won with grit and guile.
In this April 23, 2011 file photo, Libyan rebel fighters run across a street in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya
It took five weeks of fierce street battles — on rooftops, in alleyways — for Misrata’s inexperienced rebels to wrest control of their city’s commercial heart from forces loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Up against armored units and professional sniper squads, they turned bottles, tires and trailer trucks into tools of war.
When they finally succeeded in pushing government forces out of Libya’s third-largest city in late April, it was the greatest head-to-head military victory yet in the uprising that threatens Gadhafi’s 42-year hold on power. The opposition controls much of eastern Libya, but Misrata is the only city in the west rebels have managed to hold.
“Our fighters weren’t fighting from experience,” said the local military spokesman, Ibrahim Beatelmal, noting that most had never touched a gun before joining the fight. “They had to make it all up as they went along.”
In this April 23, 2011 file photo, bullet casings litter a street in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya.
The city remains surrounded, accessible only through its port and subjected to daily bombardments. After two months of siege, cemeteries accommodate rows of new graves and hospitals have transformed into battlefield clinics; doctors estimate that the siege’s death toll has passed 1,000.
Yet amid the carnage, residents have organized to stave off hunger, allocate fuel and protect the city. They’ve erected sand berms along streets to absorb blasts, hacked down palm trees to delineate ambulance fast lanes, formed an array of administrative committees — all with a community spirit that revealed itself in many ways during an Associated Press reporter’s weeklong stay.
Misrata is a merchant city, with a large professional class whose expertise has paid off in distinctive ways. Dermatologists treat blast victims. University students master street-fighting tactics.
“All of a sudden I became responsible for macaroni and onions,” said Majdi Shibani, a telecommunications professor put in charge of food distribution — a daunting task in a sprawling city where all phone lines have been cut. His team oversees distribution of 400 tons of food per week from a room in the back of a hookah lounge, where customers smoke water pipes.
Donations of food have streamed in on boats from the Libyan diaspora, foreign countries and international organizations. There’s little coordination, resulting in huge surpluses of, say, canned corn — which Shibani said Libyans hate.
The stalemate in Misrata mirrors the situation nationwide. Soon after the uprising against Gadhafi broke out on Feb. 15, the opposition took over Benghazi and other eastern towns, but its patchwork forces proved unable to make further gains even after U.S. and NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s troops began in late March.
Meanwhile, government forces surrounded Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tripoli, cutting it off and attacking from three sides. Unlike fighters in eastern Libya, who retreat across stretches of desert when attacked, Misrata’s rebels can’t run; their backs are to the Mediterranean Sea.
After several failed attacks on Misrata, government commanders sent a column of tanks blasting its way down Tripoli Street on March 16. Residents fled, and regime sniper teams moved in, building nests on a dozen of the city’s tallest buildings, notably a nine-story insurance building. Gunfire from the rooftops killed and wounded scores of civilians.
The city’s youth organized resistance. Led by a handful of retired army officers, they formed brigades of dozens of fighters, each assigned to a side street, said Samir al-Hadi, a grocer who led a group at Tripoli Street’s southern end.
Local youths used their intimate knowledge of the area to dodge sniper fire, serving as scouts, gunmen, messengers and supply runners. Over walkie-talkies, group leaders let others know when tanks or supply trucks arrived so they could attack them with Molotov cocktails or rocket-propelled grenades.
They first fought with only light arms. With each ambush, they captured more — mostly anti-aircraft and heavy artillery guns — which they welded to the backs of pickup trucks.
The Gadhafi regime imported the pickups — cheap Chinese imitations of name-brand trucks — in 2007, but they sat unwanted in a lot until the war. Now, the rebels have registered about 2,000, even issuing photo IDs to their drivers to prevent theft.
The fleet is essential to the rebel cause, ferrying fighters to battle, aid to families, and casualties to hospitals. Although the trucks often break down, the rebels call them a blessing.
“The bad cars Gadhafi brought us we now use to fight him,” said Hisham Bansasi, who helps coordinate the fleet. “You can call it a joke of destiny.”
Bigger trucks were used when the rebels — unable to blast the snipers from their positions — decided instead to cut their supply lines. While rooftop gunmen provided cover, rebels drove trucks full of sand onto Tripoli Street, dumped their trailers and shot out their tires, forming heavy roadblocks.
“When we blocked the road, there was no way to get supplies to the snipers,” al-Hadi said.
The rebels then circled in, closing off back routes with destroyed cars and concrete sewage pipes.
Street battles raged while they besieged the snipers. Government forces peppered the area with mortars, killing many rebels. Al-Hadi guesses that about 400 died in the fighting on Tripoli Street alone, although no one has exact figures.
Among the victims were two Western photojournalists who had accompanied rebels to the street — Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, and British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
As the snipers gradually weakened, rebel fighters went building by building, clearing them any way they could.
Near the battle’s end, a team of snipers held out in a multistory furniture store called “Make Yourself at Home,” al-Hadi said. Rebels fired on the building with anti-aircraft guns, forcing the snipers into the basement.
Gunmen then stormed the building and rolled burning tires down the stairs. Days later, its stairwell was charred black, and the smell of burnt rubber and dead bodies fouled the air.
The battle turned in late April, al-Hadi said, as government troops ran low on supplies and fled from the high-rises to nearby homes. The rebels raised their flag on the insurance building on April 21.
In this April 22, 2011 file photo, a Libyan rebel fighter uses a scope to peek through a hole in a wall during a battle with pro-Gadhafi troops in the besieged city of Misrata, the main rebel holdout in Gadhafi’s territory.
Rebel fighter Mustafa Zredi, 18, said he watched one of the last sniper groups seize a house on April 26 and punch holes for their rifles in the stairway walls.
“We knew we could easily put gas in a bottle and throw it over the wall to burn them out,” Zredi said.
Before doing so, the fighters asked permission from the owner, 66-year-old Mohammed Labbiz. With regret, he said OK.
“That was the only way to get those dogs out,” Labbiz recalled, standing in the charred shell of his home of 30 years. “I hope that God will reimburse me.”
Two days later, curious families walked down Tripoli Street, snapping photos of their children next to burned-out tanks.
The fighting has caused massive displacement throughout Misrata. Thousands of residents now squat in schools or crowd in with family members.
The Refayda family, from a semi-rural area to the east, evacuated into the city in mid-April after a surge of sniper fire and bombardments.
Some 70 clan members now stay in an unfinished, four-room house near the ocean. They’ve divided the rooms by age and gender — women in the bedrooms, girls in the living room, boys in the garage. The oldest is 77, the youngest 4 months. About 30 of the clan’s grown men are on the battlefield but visit regularly.
Demand is high for the home’s three bathrooms; three children shower at a time.
Ali Hameida built the house in 2003 for his wife and five children, never imagining so many guests.
“If I had known, I’d have dug a basement,” he said.
Libyans carry coffins during a funeral of four Libyan rebel fighters in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya
It’s been impossible to keep a precise count of Misrata’s death toll; doctors’ estimates range between 1,000 and 2,000. The central hospital, Hikma, has registered more than 550 dead since mid-February, but others were brought to outlying clinics or buried straightaway.
The Libyan government has provided no information on how many soldiers it has lost, further blurring the picture.
Hikma, originally a private clinic, has been transformed by the war. A tent in the parking lot houses the triage unit. Another serves as a mosque. Wards are crowded around the clock, and doctors bed down in alcoves hidden behind sheets. Outside, families cluster to await news, erupting in tears and chants when a new death is confirmed.
Dr. Ali Mustafa Ali, like many of his colleagues, often sleeps at Hikma but returns home to his wife and children during lulls, snipping a few roses from his garden to bring back to work.
“The severity of the situation has made everyone pull together in a way I’ve never seen before,” Ali said.
A group of men emerged from the hospital carrying a wooden coffin covered in a blanket — the first of 11 “martyrs” who would reach the hospital before nightfall.
“God is great,” Ali said as the men passed. Then he entered the hospital to put the flowers on his desk.
“They’re for the people inside,” he said, “to keep their spirits up.”
Free Libya gets its own satellite channel, hosted by — you guessed it — Qatar.
For the first time in its history, Libya is getting its own independent satellite channel.
A group of Libyans from abroad and inside the country is setting up the new station to broadcast news and commentary about Libya for a Libyan audience, with the aim of countering Libyan state propaganda and promoting dialogue about the country’s future after Muammar al-Gaddafi, the brutal leader whose four-plus decades in power appear to be drawing to a rapid close.
The channel, to be called simply Libya TV, launches this week in Doha after less than two weeks of hurried preparation. Its founder is the avuncular Mahmud Shammam, a well-known Libyan expatriate journalist who edits Foreign Policy‘s Arabic edition.
Libya TV’s initial team of 19 young staffers was assembled partly over Facebook, Shammam says. In mid-March, he put out a call for volunteers on his page and immediately got more than 200 requests to join. “One woman even said her life would mean nothing if she did not participate,” Shammam told me. Another new staffer left Ajdabiya, an eastern city that until the last few days was occupied by Gaddafi’s fighters, to join the network in Doha. The channel had to buy him a new set of clothes when he arrived.
Shammam, a staunch secularist, has long been an outspoken critic of Gaddafi’s regime, dating back to his days as a student activist at Michigan State University, where he squared off against Gaddafi supporters led by Musa Kusa, now the regime’s foreign minister and a key member of its inner circle. (“He’s not stupid,” Shammam says of Kusa. “He knows the regime is collapsing.”)
Returning home to Libya after college, Shammam got into trouble after participating in the January 1976 student demonstrations in Benghazi, and left the country in March of that year, never to return. He has spent the years since as a journalist and activist, with stints at a number of different outlets, including nearly 10 years at the helm of Newsweek‘s Arabic edition. He’s a frequent guest on Al Jazeera, where he was a board member for four years, and is close to Libyan opposition leaders both in and outside the country.
For the first month, Shammam hopes to broadcast four hours of original programming each day, including a 20-minute news bulletin and a half-hour talk show, and then extend it thereafter. He is keen to give Libya’s young people, who have been at the forefront of the uprising, a prominent voice at the station. “The youth who liberate Libya can run it,” he says. “If we don’t let them take responsibility now, we’re going to be in trouble.”
According to Mohamed al-Akari, the new station’s Tripoli-born manager, Libya TV has set up a studio in Benghazi and another in London, in addition to its headquarters in Doha, and has correspondents throughout Libya.
While editorially independent, the channel could prove an important outlet for the revolutionaries, especially if the drama of the uprising fades and the conversation shifts to less visually gripping topics like constitutional reform, political development, and education. International coverage of Tunisia and Egypt has dropped precipitously in the wake of the respective departures of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.
In the early days of the uprising, Libyans set up the National Transitional Council (NTC), a body describing itself as “the political face of the revolution.” The purpose of the council, a senior NTC representative told me, was to combat the regime’s message that a post-Gaddafi Libya would mean chaos, tribalism, and civil war, as well as to “liberate our country, to speak to the world in one voice, and to mobilize support for the resistance.”
One of the key challenges of a post-Gaddafi Libya will be combating the years of “indoctrination” Libyan children faced, he told me, noting the wide gulf between a highly educated, worldly diaspora that is eager to help rebuild the country and a bruised, battered population inside Libya that has known only Gaddafi for 42 years.
“We need a heavy dosage of dialogue,” says Shammam, speaking for the new satellite channel. “We want Libyans to think about the future: the rule of law, civil society, a new constitution. We want to promote a culture of forgiving.”
Libya TV is being funded primarily by donations from Libyan businessmen abroad, including one $250,000 contribution from a wealthy Libyan donor in Britain. The state of Qatar, in addition to agreeing to host the network on its soil, has turned over the facilities and technical staff of Al-Rayyan, a local channel focused on cultural programming.
Eman Al-Obeidi’s fiancee has spoken earlier on Al Jazeera saying that he was already engaged to her and that they have performed the marriage ceremony with the Shiekh. Although she was not present, and her whereabouts remain unknown, Eman’s fiancee and family arranged this ceremony in her honor (See note below).
He also stated that he was proud to be married to Eman. His name is Faraj Ghaithi. The families had an understanding that they will be married in the future.
Below is a video of the celebrations that took place. The women are chanting “Oh Eman oh Eman, we put your picture in the square” They are showing that they support her.
Flashing the car’s taillights and honking the horn indicate a joyous occasion. This tradition takes place during weddings in many Arab countries.
Her fiancee, Faraj is shown at 0:22.
Al-Aan channel which interviewed Eman’s cousin, also called Tobruk, Eman’s home town to confirm that the marriage ceremony did take place.
Eman’s fiancee, Faraj Ghaithi
An Islamic marriage ceremony can take place with representatives from both sides (from the bride and groom) to give their consent. It is understood that Eman has previously agreed to marry Faraj, and that there was an ‘understanding’ between the two families.
We are tracking the latest developments to keep you updated on the situation on the ground. There are interactive maps located in the Protest map page to keep up with the latest movements. You can also click on our links to the Right to follow the latest Live Libya Blogs and featured twitters. On the Go? -Follow us on Twitter @Feb17Libya for the same live updates.
All updates are in Libyan local time.
That’s it for Live Coverage on March 22, 2011. — stay tuned on the homepage for Live Updates on March 23.
2:05AM: Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught in Tripoli says Gaddafi’s televised address may not have been broadcast live as state TV runs a lot of recycled material, and no busloads of foreign journalists were brought to his palace to witness the event.
2:02AM: The UN is preparing to bring more aid into Libya. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says the agency will send truckloads of goods to Benghazi on Wednesday, including 5,000 blankets and 5,000 sleeping mats. ”Providing humanitarian assistance under current circumstances is very challenging,” he said.”There are reported shortages of medical supplies and basic commodities in the eastern part of the country, with prices having increased dramatically.” The UN World Food Programme plans to move 19 tons of lentils and 11 tons of vegetable oil in the next two days from Egypt into eastern Libya.
1:46AM: Here is a screen grab from Muammar Gaddafi’s appearance this evening on Libyan State TV at his in Bab El Azizi complex near Tripoli:
1:13AM: The Dutch government has said it will deploy six F-16 fighter jets, a refueling plane and a navy minesweeper to help enforce the arms embargo against Libya. The defense minister, Hans Hillen, said the F-16s would be available within a few days while the minesweeper, HMS Haarlem, already is in the Mediterranean.
1:05AM: Col Gaddafi’s words earlier today purportedly in front of his damaged Bab Al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli: “I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I am resistant, my house is here in my tent […] I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I, I am here! I am here! I am here!”.
12:48AM: Barack Obama will cut short his trip to Latin America by two hours to fly home early to meet with his security team about the conflict in Libya, the White House says, according to AFP.
12:38AM: Hillary Clinton says people purporting to represent Col Gaddafi have been in contact with US officials. “A lot of it is just the way he behaves. It’s somewhat unpredictable. But some of it, we think, is exploring. You know, what are my options? where could I go? what could I do? And we would encourage that, their options,” she tells ABC news.
12:23AM: Hillary Clinton says that though she heard reports that one of Col Gaddafi’s sons had been killed, the “evidence is not sufficient” to confirm this. She told ABC that it was not US forces that would have killed him.
12:17AM:The US president says the Libyan people face potential threats from Col Gaddafi if he remains in power. Unless Col Gaddafi is willing to step down, “there are still going to be potential threats toward the Libyan people,” he says, Reuters report.
12:11AM: U.S. Secretary of State Clinton tells ABC that U.S. believes Gaddafi may be exploring exile options, but unclear if he is serious.
12:07AM: Germany is withdrawing ships and air crews in the Mediterranean Sea from various long-running Nato operations following the military alliance’s decision to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya, according to the Associated Press news agency. Berlin isn’t participating in the operation to impose a no-fly zone in Libya and abstained on the U.N. resolution authorizing it.
11:58PM: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vows to continue the fighting, confident that they will win in the end. “We will be victorious in the end,” Col Gaddafi said in remarks broadcast live on television. The Libyan people are Libya’s “air defence” says Muammar Gaddafi in his address, infront of a crowd gathered at his fortified Tripoli compound, the BBC’s Monitoring Service reports. He also declared, “I am here, I am here”
11:55PM: A majority of French support the foreign military operations in Libya, according to the first poll carried out in France since operations started against Gaddafi’s forces on Saturday. According to the survey conducted by pollster IFOP, 66 per cent of those surveyed supported the intervention and there was no difference between left-wing or right-wing political streams.
11:38PM: The U.S.-led military mission in Libya has already saved lives in Benghazi, President Obama says. He also said he has “no doubt” US will be able to shift control of Libya mission to int’l coalition
11:11PM: Al Jazeera Arabic interviews the National Transitional Council head Abdul Jalil live: we appreciate Coalition forces, emphasize that they are here to protect Civilians not to occupy. He said that revolutionaries alone do not have necessary firepower to protect civilians and stop Gaddafi’s massacres.
10:47PM: Saudi Arabia has expressed its support for the military operation in Libya. The Saudis have moved to clamp down on protests in their own country, but they have been on bad terms with Col Gaddafi for years. UK Prime Minister David Cameron met Saudi Foreign Minister in London for talks on Tuesday. “Prince Saud expressed strong support for the aims of UNSCR 1973 [authorising the no-fly zone] and the steps being taken by the international community to enforce it,” Downing St said in a statement after the meeting.
10:42PM: The New York Times has more on the controversial circumstances in which the crew of a downed US fighter were extracted from eastern Libya. It quotes a Marine Corps officer as saying that two Harrier attack jets dropped two 500-pound bombs during the rescue of the pilot on Monday night.
The officer added that the grounded pilot, who was in contact with rescue crews in the air, asked for the bombs to be dropped as a precaution before the crews landed to pick him up. ”My understanding is he asked for the ordnance to be delivered between where he was located and where he saw people coming towards him,” the officer said. He added that the pilot evidently made the request “to keep what he thought was a force closing in on him from closing in on him.”
10:38PM: Concern is rising about the fate of the coastal Libyan city of Misratam, which remains under fire from pro-Gaddafi snipers and tanks. The US military said earlier today it was “considering all options” in response to conditions there that have left people cowering in darkened homes and scrounging for food and rainwater. However, opponents of the Gaddafi regime fear that Libya’s third largest city could go the way of Zawiya, near Tripoli, which was largely taken back by rebels after vicious fighting.
10:30PM: The US expects to see more Arab participation in the Libya operation over the coming days, Reuters reports, quoting an unnamed US official.
10:26PM:At least two of the aircraft promised by Qatar have now arrived in Cyprus. Qatar is so far the only Arab country to contribute to the military operation against Libya. The planes are headed for the base of Souda in Crete but had to make an unscheduled stop after struggling against high winds. The two Mirage 2000 jets and the C-17 cargo aircraft had to refuel in Cyprus, AP reports.
10:23PM: Sky News has reported that US military sources confirmed to Fox News that shots were fired during the rescue operation of US pilots whose plane crashed in eastern Libya on Monday night.
10:17PM: The Libyan regime is saying that it will release three journalists held in the country, the French news agency AFP is reporting. AFP journalists Dave Clark and Roberto Schmidt, as well as photographer Joe Raedle from Getty Images, were detained by Libyan forces on Saturday near Ajdabiya in the east of Libya.
10:11PM: Libyan state TV has said residents of Tripoli will respond to coalition bombing raids with fireworks, BBC Monitoring notes. The action is to emphasise that “this is not a way to hold dialogue between nations”, the TV report said.
9:58PM: We are getting more reports from Misrata. A witness there tells the BBC that pro-Gaddafi troops and “mercenaries” have set fire to a food storage unit near the motorway in the south of the city, where they have a stronghold. The report – like others from that area – cannot be independently verified.
9:54PM: Advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists says it has confirmed more than 50 attacks or attempts to silence the media since the Libyan unrest began in February. The toll includes two deaths and more than 30 detentions, it says.
9:51PM: More signs that the coalition is widening. Romania is to send a frigate to the Mediterranean to take part in a Nato arms embargo of Libya, President Traian Basescu is quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
9:48PM: David Cameron and Barack Obama believe Nato should play a “key role” in the military campaign in Libya and that “substantial progress” has been made in implementing the UN resolution, Downing Street said tonight after the leaders spoke by telephone. The US president won British and French support for a NATO role in the air campaign against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, according to a Reuters take on diplomatic moves today.
9:40PM: Bursts of anti-aircraft fire across Tripoli heralded the start of an apparent fourth night of attacks shortly after 2015 local time on Tuesday, the Guardian’s Ian Black reports from the city.
He adds: “No aircraft or missiles were visible to the naked eye and traffic continued to move normally through the streets of the capital. State TV interrupted its regular broadcasts to report the start of the bombardment and show live pictures of tracer fire sending red tracer arcs across the sky.”
9:22pm: State-run Libyan TV has aired what it says is live coverage of the capital Tripoli coming under bombardment. The presenter said: “Tripoli is being bombarded now.” The channel split the screen and in one half showed the sky lit with fire and the sound of anti-aircraft fire could be heard.
9:17pm: President Obama has called UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy from Airforce One, the White House says. They “reviewed the substantial progress that has been made in terms of halting the advance of Gaddafi’s forces on Benghazi as well as the establishment of a no-fly zone”. They also agreed that “Nato should play a key role in the command structure going forward”.
Violent attacks from Gaddafi forces on civilian houses
9:02pm: The western city of Misrata came under heavy attack by Col Gaddafi’s forces on Tuesday, witnesses have told the BBC. Caller Mohammed in Misrata tells BBC World Have Your Say tanks and snipers were shooting in the morning. Four children died – a report which can’t be independently verified by the BBC. He also goes on to say “The people who have been killing in his city are not Libyan, but mercenaries”, and he says a number of them have been captured by rebels there. Libya.”
8:50pm: The countries in the no-fly zone coalition continue to discuss who should take command. The US is eager to hand over the lead, but Nato has not so far said it is willing to take over. President Obama believes Nato should be part of the mission’s command structure, the White House has said.
8:52pm: Jubran Hussein el Warfali, one of the heads of the Gaddafi battalions, has been killed near Tripoli
8:41pm: Enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya appears to be entering its fourth night. In the past few minutes, anti-aircraft fire and distant explosions have been heard in Tripoli, AFP reports.
8:36pm: Col Gaddafi’s forces may have the advantage in firepower, but it seems a few new weapons are making their way into rebel hands. Rob Crilly of the Telegraph newspaper, who is in Benghazi, tweets: “some of the rebels have very new looking AK-47s today. Shiny and they are covering the muzzles to keep dust out #libya
8:10pm: The UK Foreign Office tweets: “We continue to urge remaining British nationals in Libya to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.”
7:58pm: One of the rebels in Benghazi, Abdallah Fajani, tells our correspondent Gaddafi will fight hard to hold on to this area: “Ajdabiya is the crossroads from three, four, five cities, so he wants to be in this city because this city is very important… And [so] it is important for us as well.”
7:54pm: The BBC’s Ian Pannell reports on the divisions among the Libyan rebels in Benghazi: “Rebels lack any command or control, they have no communications equipment and only light weapons… There are divergent strategies here: some envision pushing to the west, perhaps even to go as far as Tripoli; others want to just take Ajdabiya and then consolidate their hold of the east, hoping the Libyans in other cities will rise up and liberate themselves.”
7:42pm: On the question of command and control of the military operation in Libya, the BBC’s Chris Morris in Brussels says there has been no agreement yet: “Britain wants Nato to take over, but it admits there are differences of opinion. Many countries are sceptical, including Turkey which wants any Nato mission to be much more strictly defined. And France has been resisting Nato control, saying Arab countries wouldn’t want it. So we may be heading for a European command, or a form of words which will allow Nato structures to take part, without taking a political lead – what diplomats here wouldn’t want to call a fudge.”
7:30pm: Salah in Zintan has told the BBC about attacks on the western city: “The city is quiet now, but 10 people were killed earlier today. There are many tanks to the north and people have told us that there is a very large group of troops coming from the south. If these troops arrive, they will destroy the city. We are waiting for the Americans and the French to come and help. So far they haven’t come to Zintan. We want them to help us, to check out the area and to do the best they can to protect us.”
7:25pm: A UK resident who has recently returned from Zawiya but does not wish to be named has just told the BBC: “I spoke to one of my trusted friends in Zawiya about two hours ago. He’d had to drive 30km out of Zawiya to get reception to call me – the phone was not his. He said there were hundreds of troops on the street searching people, asking questions, taking away mobile phones, money, laptops, memory sticks. House-to-house searches are frequent and violent.”
7:12pm: Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News’s international editor, has been to the hospital where some of the Libyans injuredin the US airmen’s rescue have been taken . She has spoken to the father of a young boy who expects to have his leg amputated due to a bullet wound.Gauging the reaction of locals in the area, she says: “The local Libyans do not seem resentful, they still want the coalition forces to keep operating.”
6:33pm: Qatar’s forces will be up and flying in the Libya coalition operations by the weekend, says US Adm Samuel Locklear, the head of US forces enforcing the no-fly zone, according to Reuters.
6:31pm: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces are attacking civilians in the city of Misrata, Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, told reporters Tuesday. “We will continue to make him comply” with the United Nations Security Council resolution, Locklear said. The power of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air force has been diminished to the point where it will “not have any negative impact” on coalition members conducting airstrikes, Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said Tuesday.
6:01pm: A senior defense official says both the pilot and weapons officer from an Air Force F1-5 that crashed in Libya are now safely out of the country.
6:11pm: It has emerged Libya has substantial gold reserves, reports the BBC’s Andrew Walker. They are worth more than $6bn at current prices, which puts Libya among the top 25 countries in terms of gold reserves. Libya is restricted in how it can use its overseas assets, but most Libyan gold is held inside the country and could generate millions of dollars in revenue for Col Gaddafi.
6:08pm: French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said the international intervention in Libya, and France’s conduct in it, were in strict compliance with UN Resolution 1973, BBC Monitoring reports. He told the French National Assembly: “Even if we call for the departure of Gaddafi, it’s for the Libyan people and that people alone to decide on their fate and on their future leaders.”
6:04pm: French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for the creation of a special committee of foreign ministers from coalition countries to oversee operations in Libya, AFP reports. The military campaign could end at any time if Col Gaddafi accepts a ceasefire, Mr Juppe has added.
5:57pm: UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has been commenting on events in Libya and the Arab world. Speaking in London, at the Times CEO Africa Summit, he said: “We are only in the early stages of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East. It is already set to overtake the 2008 financial crisis and 9/11 as the most important development of the early 21st century, and is likely to bring some degree of political change in all countries in the Arab world.” The repercussions from the Middle East have also been felt in Sub-Saharan Africa, points out Hague . He mentions the crisis in Ivory Coast, and criticises Zimbabwe for intimidating opponents. He warns: “Governments that block the aspirations of their people, that steal or are corrupt, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will find it increasingly hard to escape the judgement of their own people, or where warranted, the reach of international law.”
5:43pm: From Reuters: Foreign ministers of the Libya no-fly zone coalition countries will meet in the coming days in a European capital, says French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.
5:33pm: Reuters: Resident says at least 10 people killed in bombardment of west Libya town of Zintan
5:29pm: Fighting in the western city of Zintan, near the border with Tunisia, has now subsided, an eyewitness has told BBC Arabic. The witness, Abdul, said: “Right now, it is calmer than it was in the morning, when there was fighting and shelling in the east of the city. Those Gaddafi forces have now withdrawn. However, 50 to 60 tanks have massed at the northern entrance to the city. Gaddafi’s forces have also cut off the electricity.”
5:21pm: More now from the Libya desk at the BBC World Service, which has been speaking to people on the ground. In Misrata, an opposition activist has appealed to the international community for help: “We need a sea ambulance or medical supplies to be brought by sea, because the government has cut off electricity and water and the hospital is suffering.”
5:05pm:Western warplanes attacked a military aircraft belonging to Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces that was flying towards the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
Libya Briefing by Major General Lorimer (22 Marach, 2011)
4:57pm: If the Arab world remains uneasy about the no-fly zone, there is little sign of reluctance among the Libyan rebels. The Libya desk at the BBC World Service has learned that representatives of the rebels’ Transitional national Council in Benghazi have called a protest for Tuesday evening against Russia’s calls for the air strikes and the no-fly zone to be suspended. They expect a significant turn-out. One resident told the BBC: “We are happy about air strikes. Without them Benghazi would have been destroyed. Gaddafi’s forces brought long line of tanks with weapons to destroy us. Without french air strikes on saturday we would be dead. WE think it’s a good step. The UN is helping us.” Another said: “We are happy the coalition strikes are here. It saved Benghazi from absolute disaster.”
4:51pm: Here are the key excerpts from the Nato statement on the no-fly zone: “Nato has now decided to launch an operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya… [Nato ships and aircraft] will conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries… At the same time, Nato has completed plans to help enforce the no-fly zone – to bring our contribution, if needed, in a clearly defined manner, to the broad international effort to protect the people of Libya from the violence of the Gaddafi regime.” However, there is no specific mention of using Nato’s command-and-control structure to direct operations.
4:44pm: The port in the Libyan capital of Tripoli appears to have been hit by a missile strike overnight, CNN’s Nic Robertson reports. He says he can see the smoldering remains of several large military rocket launcher systems. Witnesses told CNN they saw missiles strike in the port area overnight.
4:38pm: In Tripoli, Libyan officials say a naval facility in the east of the city was bombed overnight by coalition forces, Reuters reports.
4:35pm: There are further reports of fighting on the ground between pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels. The AFP news agency says at least nine people were killed in clashes on Monday and Tuesday in the rebel-controlled town of Yafran, 130km (80 miles) south-west of Tripoli.
4:30pm: NATO on Tuesday said it will begin to enforce an arms embargo against Libya. NATO ships and aircraft “will conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries,” according to a NATO statement. The alliance will also help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, the statement from NATO’s secretary-general said.
4:27pm: The backing of the Arab League was crucial for getting the UN resolution on the Libya no-fly zone, but some Arab countries are watching developments with unease. Algeria’s foreign minister says Western military intervention in Libya is “disproportionate” and must end immediately, Reuters reports, quoting the Algerian state news agency. Algeria has seen small-scale protests since the wave of uprisings in the Arab world began three months ago but the demonstrations have usually been broken up by the security forces.
4:25pm: Residents in Yafran southwest of Tripoli report fierce fighting between Gaddafi forces and Libyan rebels
4:25pm: Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons is onboard the USS Kearsarge, just off the Libyan coast, which was involved in the recovery of the crew of the F-15. ”We’re told two aircraft were involved in the recovery operation,” he said. ”The two pilots are in good condition. They are expected to be heading possibly to his ship which has excellent medical facilities on board. They were over flying northeast Libya on mission. It is not known exactly what they were engaged in.”
The wreckage of a U.S. Air Force F-15 in Libya on Tuesday.
4:20pm: Spain has voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking part in the coalition to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s request for formal approval of the move was adopted by 336 votes to 3, with one abstention. Spanish planes have already been patrolling Libyan airspace. Madrid has also sent a frigate and a submarine to join coalition forces.
4:15pm: More on the debate over who should lead the mission in Libya: France is not the only country opposed to a joint Nato command, Yves Boyer, deputy director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research tells the BBC World Service. Like the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, Mr Boyer pointed out that the operation was not initiated by Nato but by individual countries forming a coalition. Given that the operation was “relatively limited in scope”, he said it could “be led by a Franco-British team, or by a European command, either the British or the French taking the lead”.
3:44pm: President Obama has called the Emir of Qatar, and underscored Qatar’s contribution to the Libya mission, the White House has added.
3:39pm: Turkey is “uniquely aware of the command and control capabilities of Nato, but has declined to discuss what more Turkey may do on Libya”, the White House has said, according to Reuters.
3:30pm: Al Jazeera’s James Bays filed this report from the front lines today
3:22pm: Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci has said Western-led air strikes on Col Gaddafi’s forces in Libya were disproportionate and threatened to worsen the crisis
3:20pm: The Daily Telegraph has an account of the welcome the US airman received after his crash near Benghazi: “Raising his hands in the air he called out ‘OK, OK’ to greet the crowd. But he need not have worried. ‘I hugged him and said don’t be scared we are your friends,’ said Younis Amruni, 27… A queue formed to shake the hand of the airman, as locals thanked him for his role in the attacks.”
3:15pm: Nato ambassadors have agreed Nato warships would help to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya, diplomats in Brussels have said, Reuters reports. The envoys have been trying to resolve the question of who should command the military campaign in Libya if the US steps back from leading the operation, they said
3:12pm:Opposition member in Misrata said he stopped counting the number of injured after he had reached 1,200. The death toll will increase as those injured will succumb. Witness says that some of the dead are unidentifiable and that Gaddafi forces are killing indiscriminately
3:05pm:Al Jazeera correspondent James Bays near Ajdabiya says that the opposition is only lightly armed in comparison to the heavily armed Gaddafi force. Bays says that neither side is gaining much ground on expanding their front line position
2:37pm:Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has himself spoken after his meeting with Mr Gates, saying an immediate ceasefire would be the best way to protect civilians in Libya. He has said Russia believes “that an immediate ceasefire and a dialogue between the belligerent parties is the surest path to the reliable security of civilians”.
2:35pm: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who is in Moscow, has said some people in Russia seem to believe what he called Col Gaddafi’s “lies” about civilian casualties in Libya: “We’ve been very careful about this, and it’s almost as though some people here are taking at face value Gaddafi’s claims about the number of civilian casualties, which as far as I am concerned are just outright lies,” he told reporters after talks with the Russian defence minister.
2:32pm: Libyan doctor in Misrata: The children of a colleague were killed by Col Gaddafi’s forces on Tuesday morning, “two boys and two girls. The situation is so serious. In my hospital here, we have no electricity and we work with a generator.” The doctor added he had not been in touch with his family for 10 days and did not know how they were. He says he lives in the hospital, where water and medical supplies are running low. “In one or two days, we can go home, because we won’t be able to do more than normal people can do. We are relieved to hear about the air strikes and the coalition forces, but on the ground we are dying every day.
2:20pm: UN Refugee Agency tweets: “#UNHCR staff at #Tunisia’s border with #Libya say they can hear gunfire coming from deep inside Libya.”
2:09pm: British Major General John Lorimer has said the coalition operation in Libya is having a “very real effect”, and that the Libyan government attack on Benghazi on Monday was stopped in its track.
1:59pm: The French government says it will support coalition partners on Libya when the US scales back its participation, Reuters reports
1:47pm: In Britain, David Cameron’s spokesman says the prime minister has updated the cabinet on the latest developments in Libya. “The cabinet is completely united on the issue but clearly people do have questions,” the spokesman said. He added that the issue of whether Col Gaddafi would be targeted was not raised, saying “we have a very clear position on that”.
1:25pm:The US Command in Africa also confirms to the BBC that the plane which camed down in Libya was based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, Britain
1:15pm: Heavy shelling and battle now in the city of Ajdabiya
1:05pm: The US military now says that the second crew member from the crashed jet in Libya has been rescued, Reuters reports.
12:50pm: A spokesman in the rebel-held town of Misrata says that pro-Gaddafi forces killed five people, four of them children, on Tuesday, the AFP reports
12:44pm:Turkey will “never point guns” at Libyans, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is quoted as saying by Reuters. Mr Erdogan also says that the military operation sould be conducted under the UN control.
12:31pm: African Command’s Kenneth Fidler tells the BBC the indications are that the crash was not caused “by hostile action”. He says that one crew member has been recovered, and an operation is currently under way to recover the other serviceman. Mr Fidler also confirms that the warplane – F-15E Strike Eagle – crashed overnight. It was not immediately clear where the jet went down.
12:25pm: The US African Command has now confirmed to the BBC that the US warplane crashed in Libya.
12:07pm: Reuters is reporting that Tanks are firing shells at Libyan rebel-held city of Misratah
12:00pm: The Telegraph now says that the crashed US warplane is an F-15E Eagle.
11:55pm: Journalist Rob Crilly from The Telegraph currently in Libya tweets: “just found a crashed US warplane in a field. believe a mechanical failure brought it down #libya” a tweet a few minutes later added: crew believed safe #libya
11:53pm: Spanish aircraft have joined the military operation in Libya, the defence ministry in Madrid is quoted as saying by Spain’s TVE broadcaster
11:51am:There have been fresh air strikes on Ajdabiya, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal reports. Chris says he saw four large plumes of smoke coming from Ajdabiya, which is under control of Gaddafi’s forces, a short while after hearing aircraft overhead.
11:40pm: A presenter on Libya’s pro-Gaddafi TV station al-Libya is shown holding an automatic weapon in the studio and pledging to fight till his “last drop of blood”.
11:17am: Pro-Gaddafi forces are attacking the town of Zintan using heavy weapons, Reuters is quoting al-Jazeera as saying.
10:58AM: A doctor in Misrata, who wanted to remain anonymous, tells the BBC: “This is the fifth or sixth consecutive day of shelling the city. Our clinic is full of patients. We have no more beds to treat the patients. There is no light in the city. There has been no communication for 10 days and no water for more than one week. And still the heavy shelling continues. The situation is so serious. The international community must take responsibility. Since yesterday we have received 125 injured including an entire family with four children, shot in their car while trying to leave. Even my medical resources are running out. We can’t sustain this any more.”
10:23AM: The BBC’s Allan Little reports from Tripoli: “We have been shown no evidence of destruction but for the single exception of the missile that struck Col Gaddafi’s own compound on Sunday night. The government said that was proof that the air strikes had nothing to do with protecting civilians. A government spokesman said that a naval base 10km east of Tripoli had been targeted last night, as well as locations in Sebha in the south and a fishing village on the Mediterranean, known as Area 27. The government insists that civilians have been killed and wounded. “Our hospitals are filling up,” one minister told us. We have pressed the government here to show us evidence that civilians had indeed been affected but so far they have not done so.
10:11AM: Residents in two besieged rebel-held cities in western Libya, Misrata and Zintan, said they had been attacked by Gaddafi’s forces, Reuters reported. In Misrata, residents said people had gone out into the streets to try to stop Gaddafi’s forces entering the city. Zintan, near the Tunisian border, faced heavy shelling, two witnesses said, forcing residents to flee to mountain caves. Several houses were destroyed and a mosque minaret destroyed. “New forces were sent today to besiege the city. There are now at least 40 tanks at the foothills of the mountains near Zintan,” Abdulrahmane Daw told Reuters by phone from the town.
9:55AM: Pakistan’s foreign office has issued a carefully-worded statement on the intervention but appears to be opposed to military action:
Pakistan is following, with serious concern, the developments in Libya in the wake of the military strikes. The loss of precious human lives is indeed regrettable. Peaceful political solution needs to be evolved by the Libyan people themselves in the spirit of mutual accommodation and national reconciliation.
The statement also gives credence to the regime’s claim of civilian casualties, calling such reports “extremely distressing.”
9:51AM: Three journalists who went missing in eastern Libya more than 72 hours ago have been arrested by Gaddafi troops, the AFP news agency reports. AFP reporter Dave Clark and photographer Roberto Schmidt were arrested along with Getty photographer Joe Raedle, their driver says.
The team drove from Tobruk, near the border with Egypt, to Ajdabiya, which had fallen under the regime’s control. They encountered a convoy of military jeeps and transport vehicles “a few dozen kilometres” from Ajdabiya and were arrested by regime soldiers, along with other civilians who came down the road.
9:23AM: Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh tells Al Jazeera that Iraqi Shia political leader Muqtada al-Sadr “refuses and denounces” the foreign military intervention in Libya.
9:21AM: Reuters reports that six Qatari Mirage fighter jets are due to land at a military base in Souda, Crete, today. Twelve F-16s and 12 Mirages from the United Arab Emirates are also going to head to Sicily soon, but the exact date isn’t known, Reuters says.
9:15AM: China again calls for an end to fighting in Libya, expressing “deep concern” at reported civilian casualties and warning of a “humanitarian disaster”, Reuters reports.
8:52AM: New video purports to show the results of the battle for the western town of Misurata, home to a major oil refinery, where the Gaddafi regime and the opposition disagree about who is currently in control. The government claims Misurata was “liberated” three days ago, but the opposition claim they retain control. This video shows at least three abandoned Gaddafi tanks and an armoured personnel carrier.
8:37AM: The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Tobruk says: “Contacts between the rebel leadership and the UN are in their early stages. Like everything else about the popular uprising against Col Muammar Gaddafi, they have an air of improvisation against them. The speed with which the situation in Libya has evolved from spontaneous street protest to armed rebellion has not allowed for detailed planning. The talks were to discuss the humanitarian situation in eastern Libya. The rebel-held area continues to import food supplies from neighboring Egypt, but it is not clear how viable the local economy will be if it remains cut off from the rest of Libya for an extended period. Everything depends on the military situation, and that depends on the countries conducting air operations interpret their UN mandate. If they attack government troops on the battlefield, it will give the rebels a military edge. If they confine themselves to patrolling a no-fly zone, a long stalemate may well emerge.”
8:27AM:Libyan opposition leaders in eastern Libya have met representatives of the United Nations in Tobruk to discuss the humanitarian situation in opposition-held parts of the country. No announcements followed the talks, which took place as UN-sanctioned air operations took place elsewhere in the country.
8:22AM: More RAF jets have arrived at the Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy. The base is just over an hour’s flying time from Libya. The BBC’s Duncan Kennedy, is there: “Fighter aircraft from several nations in the coalition have been converging on air bases across southern Italy. Here at Gioia del Colle, which was used by the British during the Kosovo conflict, at least 10 combat jets have arrived. They are thought to be a mixture of typhoons and tornados. Other countries are using bases in Sicily and Sardinia, which is hosting aircraft from the United Arab Emirates. Britain’s jets are using Gioia del Colle because it’s close to Libya, allowing aircraft to patrol deeper into Libyan territory and to remain in its airspace for much longer periods without mid-air refueling.”
8:15AM: A senior US defense official has told the Associated Press that the air and missile strikes by international forces have reduced Libya’s air defense capabilities by more than 50%. That has enabled the coalition to focus more on extending the no-fly zone across Libya.
6:56AM: The Libyan government has asked the UN for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the international military action in Libya. The meeting will now take place on Thursday, exactly a week since Resolution 1973 imposed a no-fly zone.
6:43AM: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has strongly criticised the bomb attacks on Libya and accused Western countries of applying double standards. Writing in the Ugandan newspaper, the New Vision, Mr Museveni said the West had been eager to impose a no-fly-zone on Libya but had turned a blind eye to similar conditions in Bahrain and other countries with pro-Western governments. Zimbabwe’s President Roberty Mugabe said the UN Security Council resolution authorising the military action should never have been passed.
6:16AM: Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s former deputy permanent representative to the UN in New York, tells the BBC that the UN-mandated operation to enforce a no-fly zone is going well. “The attacks are accurate enough, there have been no civilian casualties, and the morale of the people is very high,” he says.
5:26AM: The United States fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya in the past 12 hours, a military spokeswoman said early Tuesday morning from the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 159 Tomahawks have been fired by the United States and the United Kingdom since an international coalition started Operation Odyssey Dawn on Saturday. Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, a spokeswoman for the task force, also said one of the three U.S. submarines that participated at the beginning of the operation has since departed the area. She declined to say which submarine.
5:25AM The ‘road of death’ links Libya’s Benghazi to Tripoli, as Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reports.
5:13AM: A US general has said that the air and missile strikes on Libyan military are likely to slow in the coming days. “My sense is that, that unless something unusual or unexpected happens, we may see a decline in the frequency of attacks,” Gen Carter Ham, the head of US Africa Command, told reporters in Washington. But he added: “We possess the capability to bring overwhelming combat power to bear, as we have done in the initial stages of this, where it’s been required.”
4:26am: Abdul Kerim, a member of the rebel National Council in Benghazi, tells the BBC that people there view the international action positively. “Everybody believes now that the United Nations resolution to protect civilians has been acted in a perfect way in Benghazi and everybody is looking now to do the same for Misrata and Zintan. Yesterday a lot of people contacted by telephone calls – different sides – begging United Nations to do the same protection for Misrata and Zintan.” Image: This image comes out of Tripoli. Anti-aircraft rounds fired in Tripoli [Reuters]
4:09am: CNN correspondent Nic Robertson in Libya has rejected a report by the Fox News network that he and other journalists were used as human shields by Col Gaddafi to prevent a missile attack on his compound. A story posted on the Fox News website on Monday said the presence of news crews from CNN, Reuters and other organisations interfered with British military operations. Read the FOX news article here.
4:02am: Libyan state television has accused Denmark of carrying out Sunday’s attack on Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, BBC Monitoring reports. “The offensive on Bab al-Aziziya has been commanded by Denmark,” the station said in a rare English-language bulletin at about 0120 GMT. The newsreader went on to accuse Denmark of having “for several years” led a “campaign against Muslims” through cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
3:50am: A woman in Tripoli says she was awoken this morning by a loud explosion from a nearby military base.After being shaken from her sleep around 2:20 a.m., she said she heard gunfire and went to the roof of her building to observe. “Then I heard the second explosion,” she said. She saw fire rising up from the direction of Mitiga Airport, formerly known as the U.S. Wheelus Air Base. She also said that people continue to live in fear of Gadhafi. “They’re afraid to come out because when they do, he attacked them very, very severely,” she says. “This is putting terror in all neighborhoods.”
3:45am: Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, writing on the Moscow Times blog, says: “The Libya war, by itself, is unlikely to spoil US-Russian relations. The stakes in Libya are minimal, while the stakes elsewhere in the relationship are high. The critical question, however, is whether the United States will decide it has to intervene in Iran as well to help the Iranian people topple the country’s tyrannical theocracy. Seen from Moscow, Iran is certainly closer to home than Libya.”
3:32am: Richard Murphy, a former US assistant secretary of state, tells the BBC his hope is that “the Libyan military will not want to see their equipment and facilities destroyed, as they can be destroyed by air power – and that the rebel forces will show more training and capability than they previously have”. He adds: “It is in the hands of the Libyans. The outsiders are only going to be able to do so much.”
3:15am: Libyan state television reports that Libyans keep backing their leader, with crowds flocking to al-Aziziah square to show their support. It also says many world capitals are witnessing demonstrations in support for Libya while the “crusader enemy” continues bombing civilian targets.
3:14am: The Dutch government says Libya probably had inside information about the failed evacuation of a Dutch citizen by three Dutch soldiers held for 12 days by Libyan authorities. The Dutch citizen has since been released from the city of Sirte, and the three soldiers have also been freed with the help of Greek authorities.
306am: Only one in three people in the UK agree it is right for Britain to take military action against Col Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, according to a ComRes/ITN poll. It found that 43% of those surveyed disagreed with the action taken by the UK government and 22% were unsure.
3:00am: For those just joining us, explosions and heavy anti-aircraft fire have been heard in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for a third night. The Libyan authorities said that a naval base and a fishing village near the capital were also hit by air attacks. The US, France and Britain have said that the Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, is not being targeted despite the destruction of a building in his compound on Sunday night.
2:56am: Mohammed Abdule-Mullah, a rebel fighter in Libya, tells the Associated Press news agency that government troops stopped their resistance after the international campaign began. “But pro-Gaddafi forces are still strong,” he says. “They are professional military, and they have good equipment. Ninety-nine percent of us rebels are civilians, while Gaddafi’s people are professional fighters.”
2:45am: State television in Libya says several sites in Tripoli have come under attack on Monday night by what it deemed the “crusader enemy”, Reuters reports.
2:33am: US Representative Ron Paul from the state of Texas tells US broadcaster CNN that President Obama should have consulted Congress before he acted in Libya. Mr Paul says America’s attack on Libya is unconstitutional and that the US is “not accomplishing what it set out to do”.
2:16AM: Al-Jazeera correspondent Anita McNaught says the government claims there have been heavy civilian casualties in coalition attacks on two major airports. Journalists have been invited to visit hospitals on Tuesday.
1:30AM: Brazil’s foreign ministry has spoken out about the events in Libya, saying in a statement:
“Brazil laments the loss of life occurring in the conflict in the country. The Brazilian government has the expectation of the implementation of an effective ceasefire as soon as possible, with the capacity to guarantee the protection of the civil population, and create conditions for the path for dialogue. Brazil reiterates her solidarity with the Libyan people and their participation in the future politics of the country in an environment that protects human rights.”
A Libyan-American who says he was forbidden from returning to the United States and questioned by FBI agents in Tunisia after visiting neighboring Libya insists he has done nothing wrong.
“I do intend to protect my rights. I do intend to clear my name,” 55-year-old Jamal Tarhuni said after arriving at Portland International Airport Tuesday morning from Amsterdam.
Tarhuni belongs to a Portland mosque that has been under scrutiny by federal investigators in years past.
He traveled to Libya last fall to help deliver humanitarian supplies. Tarhuni said he was barred without explanation from flying home on a flight from Tunis, Tunisia, on Jan. 17 and that he was told he should report to the U.S. Consulate.
Tarhuni said when he went to the consulate he was told he was on a no-fly list and was questioned by two FBI agents about his religious beliefs, whether he believes in Sharia law and about his mosque.
He said when the agents asked him to waive his Miranda rights he called his attorney, Thomas Nelson of Portland. Nelson advised Tarhuni to stop the interview with the agents, which Tarhuni did, and then he left the consulate.
Nelson flew to Tunisia and returned with Tarhuni on Tuesday. Asked why Tarhuni was allowed to leave, Nelson said the pair “raised hell” with the help of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
“They didn’t have a case,” Nelson said. “I said this is not an investigation, this is coercion.”
Nelson said the U.S. Consulate in Tunisia told him earlier this month they thought Tarhuni could travel, but neither Tarhuni nor his attorney was certain he would be allowed into the U.S. until they reached Amsterdam.
Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee confirmed that the senator had inquired about Tarhuni’s case, but said “there’s a lot we don’t know.”
“It’s hard to be concerned without knowing what’s going on,” Towslee said. “Obviously the FBI has something going on there.”
Towslee said of Tarhuni: “We’re glad he’s home.”
The FBI refused to comment.
The Portland mosque where Tarhuni worships, Masjid al-Sabr, has attracted the interest of federal investigators since the first years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-American awaiting trial on a charge of plotting to detonate a bomb at Portland’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November 2010, worshipped there occasionally.
The mosque’s imam, Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman Kariye, was arrested at Portland International Airport in September 2002 by an FBI-led anti-terrorism task force. He pleaded guilty to using a fraudulent Social Security number and defrauding a state health insurance program for the poor by underestimating his income. A federal judge sentenced Kariye to five years on probation.
Most recently, three Muslim men from Portland traveling abroad have discovered they are facing travel restrictions.
They include Tarhuni as well as another Libyan-American, 60-year-old Mustafa Elogbi. Like Tarhuni, Elogbi traveled to Libya after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. Elogbi went to visit family.
He planned to return last month. Elogbi got as far as a connecting flight in London before he was sent back to Tunisia, he said earlier this month. He said he was held in a British jail for two days and told by British authorities that the U.S. government was preventing him from flying home.
Elogbi is still in Tunisia but says he has been told he will be allowed to return to the U.S. this week.
Last year, Portland resident Michael Migliore, a Muslim convert, traveled to England by boat because of his apparent placement on the U.S. no-fly list. He was detained upon arrival and later released by British authorities.
Tarhuni said that when he was interviewed by the FBI agents in Tunis, they were interested in activities at the mosque.
“They wanted to know about people, what they do in there,” Tarhuni said. “For them to try to link people to a certain place and assume that they are part of a group, that is wrong.”
Tarhuni and Elogbi are getting support from the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has asked the Justice Department to investigate the tactics of FBI agents in Portland.