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
An Activist from the Free Generation Movement in Tripoli discusses how Tripoli feel after the latest NATO airstrikes, understanding Tripoli protests, and evidence that security forces’ command & control structure is faltering in Tripoli.
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. Also check out the featured twitters on the sidebar. On the Go? -Follow us on Twitter @Feb17Libya for the same live updates.
All updates are in Libyan local time (GMT +2).
That’s it for Live Coverage on March 24, 2011. — stay tuned on the homepage for Live Updates on March 25.
AJ correspondent James Bays reports on the desperate conditions for people who have chosen to stay in Ajdabiya, a city which has been fought over for more than two weeks.
China reaches out to Germany on Libya: Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi laid out China’s “principled stance” about the U.N.-authorized military campaign against the embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a telephone call on Thursday with the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry website (www.mfa.gov.cn).
Westerwelle will visit China next week for talks that appear sure to cover the crisis in Libya. Although Beijing and Berlin have often traded barbs on human rights, trade and security, they have found some common ground in shared misgivings about the Western air campaign against Gaddafi.
Libyan television footage shows a serious fire after allied air attacks on what the TV report said was a military base in the capital, Tripoli, badly damaging military vehicles. Wonder who actually caused this fire.
Today, at least 18 doctors and nurses from an organization funded by US AID arrived in Beghazi today.
Omar Ahmed Sodani, the man suspected of murdering PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, has been arrested by rebel forces in the country and is in custody in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
PC Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London in April 1984 and died shortly after. Photograph: PA
3:10AM: Al-Jazeera reporter Anita McNaught, in Tripoli, says she has heard less military action in the city tonight than the previous five nights since the no-fly zone was imposed.
2:21AM: Here’s a video recording of Secretary Clinton’s statements about the crisis in Libya earlier today:
2:08AM: EU Council President Herman von Rompuy after talks in Brussels: “From the beginning of the crisis, the European Union was at the forefront imposing tough sanctions. Today we decided that we are ready to adopt further sanctions, including measures to ensure that oil and gas revenues do not reach the Gaddafi
regime. Member states will ask the United Nations to do the same.”
2:05AM: Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, in Tripoli, says the lives of the Libyans are getting “harder by the day” as many petrol stations and shops are shut and many people stay at home because they fear airstrikes.
1:48AM: French President Nicolas Sarkozy says international action in Libya must “remain eminently political”, whatever Nato’s role, AFP reports. Mr Sarkozy also claims that international action has saved “thousands and thousands” of lives.
1:42AM: CNN’s Nic Robertson describes a media trip gone wrong in Tripoli, when they could not find a civilian house that the Libyan government claimed was bombed by Coalition forces:
1:35AM: A doctor in Misrata gives Feb17voices an overview of the situation in Misrata hospitals and talks about captured female snipers:
1:27AM:Here’s a full quote from Hillary Clinton’s recent statement: “Nato is well suited to co-ordinating this international effort and insuring that all participating nations are working effectively together towards our shared goals. This coalition includes countries beyond Nato, including Arab partners, and we expect all of them to be providing important political guidance going forward.”
1:17AM: AFP is reporting a statement from EU leaders saying they are “ready” to prevent oil and gas revenues from reaching Col Gaddafi’s regime.
1:04AM: Secretary Clinton says that “in only five days, we have made significant progress”. She also said that Gadhafi forces remain a “serious threat” to Libyan civilians. She notes that the US has agreed to a transition of the no-fly zone to NATO, but will also involve other nations including Arab nations, that the coalition is in control of the skies above Libya, and that humanitarian relief beginning to reach people, including a group of medics in Benghazi.
12:38AM: A US official has told AFP that the United Arab Emirates has contributed 12 warplanes to the military coalition over Libya.
12:33AM: The Nato chief said the organisation had agreed to enforce a no-fly zone in order to protect civilians. He said Nato’s mandate did not go beyond that, though it could act in self-defense, Reuters reports.
12:03AM: A video released by the Misrata Freedom Group used to prove that the Misrata port is now free of any Gaddafi forces. Summary below the video:
The speaker is giving today’s date, saying the port is NOT in the hands of Gaddafi’s troops as per some news sources and that supplies should start coming in since the port is in the hands of the good guys. He also says that they should come and transport the non libyans waiting in the port area to get out.
Libyan-American rapper Khaled M. discusses the crisis in Libya with NBC’s “The Talk”
11:43PM: Sky News searches for, but of course does not find, a house that the Libyan government claimed was bombed by coalition forces:
11:37PM: No deal on Nato taking over the leadership role for military action against Libya – it appears Turkey remains unhappy at the terms being proposed and has objected, so a deal is still being worked out tonight.
11:33PM: Libyan state television says Western air strikes targeted residential and military areas in the capital Tripoli and Tajoura. It did not specify whether it was referring to the Tripoli district of Tajoura. Reuters reporters in central Tripoli heard a distant explosion followed by rounds of anti-aircraft and tracer fire above the capital.
10:42pm:There are no signs that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s government is complying with U.N. Security Council demands for an immediate cease-fire, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday. Read what else he had to say here.
10:15pm:The Pentagon spokesman says 350 aircraft – half of them American – are involved in operations over Libya, and that there is no evidence that any civilian casualties have been caused by these missions; however, he adds, there are suggestions that attacks by regime forces have caused civilian casualties.
10:12pm:A Pentagon spokesman, briefing reporters in Washington, says: “Let me be clear – when and where regime forces threaten the lives of civilians they will be attacked… Our message to the regime troops is simple – stop fighting, stop obeying Colonel Gaddafi’s orders
10:02pm:AFP says Libyan state television is reporting that “civilian and military sites in Tripoli and (the eastern suburb of) Tajura” have come under fire from “long-range missiles”.
9:46pm: AFP reports anti-aircraft fire over Tripoli and at least three explosions shaking the Libyan capital.
9:38pm:Six F-16’s from the Netherlands have arrived on the Italian island of Sardinia. The jets will be patrolling the Mediterranean to enforce the arms-embargo against Libya. They will not take part in combat missions
9:36pm:UN chief Ban Ki-moon says there are no signs that the Libyan government is complying with UN Security Council demands for an immediate ceasefire.
9:30pm: The Libyan government has welcomed a call by Uganda’s president to hold an extraordinary African Union summit on the situation in Libya, state TV in Tripoli has said
9:22pm: Libyan rebels plead — send us guns. One Libyan man says: ”We need arms and ammunition. This is our only problem,” he said in a briefing. “Our friends are trying to support us. I hope soon we will have success and we will have all the weapons we need to liberate Libya.” Read the story here
9:15pm:UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is making a statement on Libya. He says it’s important for international community to speak with one voice
8:45PM: Turkey’s foreign minister is being quoted as saying Nato will take command of the Libya operation, AP reports. He has told TRT television that Turkey’s demands had been met and Nato will take command of the Libya military operation. Nato needs the approval of all its members and Turkey had set conditions. So far there is no independent confirmation of the statement.
8:29PM: At least 109 people have been killed in the rebel-held city of Misurata and more than 1,300 wounded in a week of attacks by forces loyal to Gaddafi, a doctor in the city told AFP news agency. The doctor working in Misurata’s state hospital said on condition of anonymity:
Attacks by Gaddafi forces since last Friday have killed 109 people and wounded 1,300 others, 81 of whom are in serious condition.
On Thursday alone “four martyrs fell because of sniper fire,” he added.
8:15PM: The disappearance of hundreds of people in Libya over the past few months may amount to a crime against humanity, UN human rights expert Olivier de Frouville has told the Associated Press.
8:01PM: The Libyan government is expecting coalition raids against telecom centres and radio stations, a government spokesman is quoted as saying by AFP.
7:56PM: Coalition tells opposition forces it will secure safe passage for aid ships from Malta to Misrata to dock, according to Reuters. Reuters also quotes a member of the opposition as claiming a major success – killing 30 government snipers in Misrata. He also says that all Libyan government military vessels have abandoned the port.
7:51PM: Read our expert’s military opinion of recent videos here.
7:48PM: AFP quotes a doctor as saying 109 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in a week in the city of Misrata, which is being fought over by pro-Gaddafi forces and opposition forces.
7:44PM:A Libyan government official says “about 100″ people have been killed by allied bombing, AFP reports. It is unclear if this refers to civilian or military casualties
7:42PM:The African Union has invited representatives of Colonel Gaddafi’s government, the Libyan opposition and others to talks in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa this Friday, Reuters quotes AU chairman Jean Ping as saying.
7:39PM: Rebels are in striking distance of the gates of Ajdabiya in their attempt to retake the strategic eastern town from government troops, AFP reports. One of the agency’s journalists says hundreds of fighters are marching on the city, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the rebels’ stronghold.
7:20 pm: “This may be a first for the Arab world: An American airman who bailed out over Libya was rescued from his hiding place in a sheep pen by villagers who hugged him, served him juice and thanked him effusively for bombing their country…”.
6:50pm: African Union’s Ping invites reps of Gaddafi govt, UN council, EU, Arab neighbours to Libya talks Friday in Addis Ababba
6:45pm: In Turkey, parliament approves government decision to participate in NATO naval operation off of Libya.
6:32pm: French Officials confirm that French warplanes have destroyed a Libyan plane which had been flying in breach of the UN no-fly zone. The plane, a smaller trainer aircraft, had just landed in the besieged city of Misrata when it was attacked, they say.It is the first incident of its kind since enforcement of the zone began.
ABC News reported earlier that the Libyan warplane that was allegedly shot down by French fighter jets today was a Galeb, single-engine military aircraft. To learn more about Galeb aircrafts read here.
5:45pm: Detained government soldiers and suspected mercenaries are kept in a former military prison near Benghazi, now taken over by rebels. Some of the men admit to serving with Gaddafi’s forces, but say they had no other choice, but to fire at rebels and civilians during battles for cities in the east of the country:
Abul Majid Mohammed, who served in the Al Fadila Battalion of the army, told Reuters news agency:
If anybody refused to open fire they would kill them, or burn them alive and on our eyes they killed soldiers who refused to fight.
5:25pm: An unnamed US official tells AP news agency a French fighter jet which reportedly shot down a Libyan plane may have been a military trainer aircraft. He says the Libyan plane may have been landing at the time of the attack.
5:15pm: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has told the Associated Press news agency that he is “100%” certain that his investigation into attacks on Libyan protesters will lead to crimes against humanity charges against Col Gaddafi’s government.
5:06pm: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said in Tel Aviv that the Arab uprisings will prove positive in “long-run”.
5:00 pm: Jordan says its assistance to the international coalition action against the Libyan regime will be solely humanitarian. Information Minister Taher Adwan told AFP news agency:
“We will provide ambulances or humanitarian aid. We will not take part in actions on the ground in Libya”
Adwan comment comes a day after British prime minister David Cameron said Kuwait and Amman will provide “logistic contributions”.
4:25pm: The French defence ministry says it will not confirm ABC reports of a Libyan plane being shot down. They say they’ll put out a bulletin later on all today’s operations, and are withholding info for now “to avoid the misreporting of events that are still unclear”.
4:19pm: Sixty-four per cent of Russians don’t back the international military action in Libya, according to an opinion poll in that country. Russia abstained in last week’s UN Security Council vote, which paved the way for intervention.
4:10pm: Italy could offer warships and more planes for operations in Libya on top of four Tornado bombers and four F-16 fighter jets it has already deployed, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa says, according to AFP news agency.
4:05pm: Libyan state TV continues its pro-Gaddafi coverage, emphasising its claim that coalition air strikes have targeted innocent civilians in Tripoli and elsewhere, and people were now invited to funeral prayers for these “martyrs”. The allies say civilians have been spared in the air raids.
3:53pm: Latest on that ABC News report about a Libyan air force jet shot down for violating no-fly zone: it was a single-engine Galeb, apparently. Still no confirmation of that report.
3:49pm: Six Dutch F-16’s are about to depart from the Netherlands to the Italian island of Sardinia, from where they will be part of the international alliance enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. The Dutch ministry of defence stresses that the jets will not be used for attack purposes.
3:47pm: Fourteen Tomahawk missiles were launched overnight in Libya by the allies, says a spokesman for US Africa Command in Germany.
3:42pm: A Tripoli resident, unnamed for obvious reasons, tells BBC’s Newshour: “I’m not exaggerating if I say tens of thousands of young people are arrested. Look, we cannot even now stay close to each other, three or four people, for a couple of minutes talking or chatting, I mean it’s very dangerous.
3:16pm: Ever wondered what military operation monikers – such as Odyssey Dawn, ELLAMY and Harmattan – mean? So have we.
3:02pm: ABC anchorman David Muir tweets: “#BREAKING ABC’s Martha Raddatz:#Gadhafi sends up first warplane violating no fly zone — plane is shot down by French fighter jets.”
2:59pm: ABC News are reporting that a French fighter jet has shot down a Libyan air force jet which was violating the no-fly zone.
2:58pm: Heba in London writes: “As a fellow Libyan national, it is heart-rending what I see in my country. The everyday murdering of my countrymen by Gaddafi’s people is to be condemned. We fully support the international “no-fly zone”, this is the only chance for us to survive. We need to work on breaking down Gaddafi’s arms and his military capabilities, even if it takes weeks.” Have Your Say
2:49pm: Mr Hague tells the House: “It is not for us to choose the government of Libya – that is for the Libyan people themselves. But they have a far greater chance of making that choice now than seemed likely on Saturday, when the opposition forces were on the verge of defeat and the lives of so many were in danger.”
2:48pm: UK forces have undertaken 59 aerial missions over Libyan in addition to air and missile strikes. Operations are being carried out under US control, says Mr Hague, but Britain wants to see a “transition to NATO command and control as quickly as possible”
2:39pm: British Foreign Secretary William Hague is giving a statement to the House of Commons on the unrest. He says the intervention remains utterly compelling. “Appalling violence against Libyan civilians continues to take place, exposing the regime’s claim to have ordered a ceasefire to be an utter sham,” says Mr Hague. He adds that there has been “universal condemnation of what the Libyan regime is doing”, from the UN, Arab League, African Union and EU. “The regime’s action is strengthening our resolve to continue our current operations and our support for the work of the International Criminal Court. Our action is saving lives and is protecting hundreds of thousands of civilians in Benghazi and Misrata from the fate that otherwise awaited them”. Coalition troops are “taking the utmost care to minimise the risk of civilian casualties,” says Mr Hague. “The only forces acting indiscriminately or deliberately inflicting civilian casualties are the forces of the Gaddafi regime”.
2:30pm: The BBC’s World Affairs correspondent John Simpson, says reporting restrictions mean it is very hard to tell from Tripoli what is going on elsewhere in the country. But he says people in government appear to have become more confident that Col Gaddafi and the system can survive, at least in Tripoli and the surrounding areas. “That’s something new, because I’m sure a few days ago they were very much less secure in the their own minds.”
The US Naval Institute has released his handy map showing the location and nationality of the international forces brought to bear against Gaddafi:
2:27pm: The International Labour Organization (ILO) says there are still an estimated 800,000 foreign workers in Libya, AFP reports Revolutionary ready to fight Gaddafi forces
2:07pm: A Libyan energy officials tells Reuters the country is low on fuel and needs imports to deal with the shortages. The official told Reuters a ship was on its way to Libya with fuel but could be stopped or bombed by the coalition action.
1:59pm: The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris says French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was careful to define the limits of the coalition’s powers in his press conference earlier. Mr Longuet urged coalition partners to remain patient with the operation, telling them “We must stay calm. We have the means to carry on. Col Gaddafi does not.”
1:55pm: Mohamed, at a polyclinic in Misrata, has just told the BBC: “We are without running water, electricity and communications for the tenth day now. My heart is broken by the carnage I have seen. Four boys died in my neighbourhood and I had to go to the funerals. I feel for them. But I feel a sense of freedom that I have never felt in Libya.”
1:48: Witnesses have told AFP that air strikes have been carried out on the Gaddafi-stronghold of Sebha overnight and on Thursday morning.
1:30pm: French military official Thierry Burkhard has told reporters a coalition strike overnight hit an air base 250km (155 miles) south of Libya’s coastline, the deepest strike into the country so far. Mr Burkhard did not say where exactly the strike took place but said it had threatened the population and that he was certain there had been no “collateral damage”. “The Libyan army is regrouping and reorganising,” he said. “But obviously we can stay that a massive capacity of the Libyan army has been degraded, reduced and weakened.”
1:26pm: The head of Nato’s naval blockade of Libya, Italian Vice Adm Rinaldo Veri, has said the operation is cutting off the “easiest, fastest and most direct way” for people to bring weapons into Libya. “I hope we can close all the windows, but one thing is sure: we are closing the main front door,” he told reporters. Vice Adm Veri said the mission would use “every means necessary” to keep weapons from reaching Libya. “If we suspect a ship is attempting to breach the embargo it may be necessary to send armed military aboard. If we encounter resistance, the use of force may be necessary,” he said.
1:17pm: British Prime Minister David Cameron commented that the remits of the UN resolution must not be exceeded was in response to a question about whether Col Gaddafi was a legitimate target for coalition attacks, Reuters reports. Mr Cameron also said the military intervention had “helped to avoid a slaughter” in Benghazi.
1:12pm: France’s Defence Minister Gerard Longuet has said the military intervention makes no sense if it is not paired with political intervention. “The military intervention is there because we have a political project. It is to discuss and build a different future for the Libyan people,” he said. Mr Longuet said the foreign powers were not “masters of this situation” and did not have a deadline. The aim of the coalition, he said, was to “encourage the emergence of a dialogue: a Libyan dialogue”.
1:08pm: China has called on all sides to observe a ceasefire in Libya. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the aim of the UN resolution – which Beijing abstained from voting on – was “to provide humanitarian protection rather than creating an even greater humanitarian crisis”. She said the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Libya should be respected”.
1:01pm: In an on-screen caption, Libya’s Al-Jamahiriya state TV says civilian and military sites in Tripoli’s Tajura district are “now being subjected to bombing by the colonialist, crusader aggressor”.
12:56pm: Kim Sengupta of the Independent newspaper is in the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi and has been making regular visits to the front line. He told the BBC World Service the rebels are poorly organisation and lacking in military skill. “Frankly, they have not shown much inclination to take on the enemy. They have, probably, spent about four times as much of the ammunition firing into the air than they have fired in anger. They are not trained fighters.”
12:47pm: Residents of Misrata have told Reuters the city is facing a “humanitarian crisis” after the port was reportedly seized by pro-Gaddafi troops. “There are more than 6,000 Egyptian workers, some with their families, plus some African workers, who are now in the port. They went there waiting for a ship to move them but nobody is coming,” said one man. The witness said the regime had sent two warships and several boats to the port. “They have besieged us from from the sea,” he said. “They haven’t attacked but if they do, the thousands of workers will be the first victims.”
12:42pm: The BBC’s John Simpson in Tripoli says Libya still appears to be divided between the east and the west. The rebels have “all the enthusiasm in the world”, he says, but do not have the organisation or weapons of the regime. The pro-Gaddafi troops, however, have weapons but don’t have the same mass support or spirit.
12:28pm:The BBC’s Jon Sopel at the allied air hub of Giola del Colle, in Italy, says yesterday’s coalition claim they control the skies above Libya makes it all the more interesting that there were fresh cruise missile strikes overnight, apparently targeting Libyan air defences. He says it would seem the allies have found some threat remains.BBC correspondent also spoke to an RAF Tornado pilot, who said air superiority in Libya will allow those jets to fly safer at a much lower altitude and identify Gaddafi tanks on the ground to attack.
11:28am: Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic snapped this photograph on Monday. It shows a rebel gunman at a checkpoint aiming his AK-47 at a man protecting another man who the fighter believes is a Gaddafi sympathizer, and shows how fluid the situation in Libya can be.
11:24am: Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley follows up on the story of Ahmed Mohammed, a boy shot in the chest during Gaddafi’s final push on Benghazi on Saturday morning, before Western warplanes began enforcing the no-fly, no-drive zone:
11:11am: Libyan state Al-Jamahiriya TV says in regular news broadcast that “civilian and military” targets in Tripoli were bombed after dawn today by allied forces. The report showed footage of people injured in hospital and some body bags with what appeared to be corpses, one apparently an older woman. The pictures can’t be independently verified.
11:05am: Al Jazeera’s Lawrence Lee says 28 ambassadors to NATO have just begun their fourth-straight day of negotiations to determine whether and how NATO can assume command of the military intervention against Gaddafi.
10:43am: Tunisia has joined the United States and European Union in freezing Libyan assets, an anonymous Tunisian government source told Reuters today. Tunisia froze assets belong to Gaddafi and five of his family members.
10:29am:The top NATO military commander, US admiral James Stavridis, is in Turkey today, the AP reports. He is meeting with high-ranking military officers a day after discussing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Objections by Turkey, a NATO member, are reported to be one reason why the western military alliance has not been able to agree about taking over command of the military campaign against the Gaddafi regime.
9:55am:The Telegraph newspaper’s Rob Crilly wrote a short dispatch last night from Benghazi, describing the effort by rebels to root out Gaddafi “sleeper cells” in the area. Young gunmen haul three men and a woman from a car at a roadblock at night, beat them, interrogate them and take them away to an “uncertain fate”.
9:56AM:Libya’s fairly tight-lipped opposition national council has opened up, or at least one of its members has. US-educated Ali Tarhouni, the newly appointed finance minister for the council, spoke with reporters last night and revealed that the rebel army consists of only around 1,000 trained men. (He apparently didn’t mention how many untrained volunteers are involved in the fighting.) Until now, the opposition has kept military details under wraps. Tarhouni admitted shortcomings in the rebel’s pell-mell ascent to power in the east. Tarhouni also said the rebels don’t have a cash crisis, despite being cut off from Tripoli. Countries have agreed to give the rebels credit, including the United Kingdom, which will give $1.1 billion, he claimed.
9:35AM:Check out a video of the aftermath after Gaddafi forces attacked Zintan here.
9:33AM:The BBC’s John Simpson in Tripoli says there have been explosions overnight in the Libyan capital. One particularly loud blast came from the direction of a military base. He says there are also suggestions Gaddafi tanks and artillery have resumed their assault under cover of darkness on rebel-held Misrata.
More than 290,000 people have fled Libya due to the conflict there, and another 600,000 still inside the country are in need of humanitarian assistance, the International Medical Corps said in a statement released on Tuesday. Libya’s border with Tunisia remains closed, but IMC is sending supplies through. In the east, IMC is still trying to reach Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, the scene of fighting for the past week. A team from Doctors Without Borders, which left Libya last week as Gaddafi’s forces neared Benghazi, is waiting for a guarantee from all parties “that medical staff will be respected and allowed to work freely” before it returns.
8:23AM: NATO member states will meet again in Brussels later on Thursday, after a third day of negotiations failed to agree on who will direct the military operation in Libya when the US relinquishes control. France is still resisting pressure to place NATO in full command. David Schenker, who directs the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute, has told the BBC: “It’s an odd dynamic. You have the French trying to set up an unprecedented war council, including the input of the Arab countries. I think that you will hear a lot of complaints from the US Congress about chain of command, about whether this is NATO, whether we should be part of this.”
8:16AM: Watch footage of Gaddafi forces killed by coalition air strikes in West Benghazi here.
7:41AM: Sixty percent of Americans support the allied military action in Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday has found. Of those polled, 48% described President Barack Obama’s military leadership as “cautious and consultative”, 36% as “indecisive and dithering”, and 17% as “strong and decisive”. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said the US and its allies should try to remove Col Gaddafi. But only 7% supported deploying ground troops.
7:16AM: An Al-Jazeera journalist in the east reports that Ajdabiya Hospital is under “regular attack” these days and that most of the doctors have left.
7:13AM: Libyan regime officials took journalists on a trip yesterday to the town of Bani Walid, around 150km southeast of Tripoli, to demonstrate support for Gaddafi in the area, according to the AP. The Warfalla tribe, Libya’s largest, is strong in Bani Walid. Some residents told reporters they had recently received weapons from the regime, which has also distributed money to the Warfalla, according to western intelligence sources, the AP said.
6:47AM: There have been more explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire in Tripoli, the AFP news agency reports.
6:23AM: Opposition sources in Misrata tell Al-Jazeera that the latest casualty figures from the western city are 14 dead and 23 injured.
6:05AM: Libyan officials took journalists to a Tripoli hospital early on Thursday to see what they said were the charred bodies of 18 military personnel and civilians killed by Western warplanes or missiles overnight.
5:53AM: A doctor in Misrata told the Associated Press that the air strikes had targeted an aviation academy and a vacant lot outside the central hospital. He also said Col Gaddafi’s tanks had left the western city afterwards, giving residents a much-needed reprieve. “Today, for the first time in a week, the bakeries opened their doors,” he added.
5:51AM:The Libyan Transitional council has released new statement on march 23 read here
5:34AM:Coalition aircraft attacked a fuel depot in Tripoli on Wednesday night, Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has told reporters, according to the Associated Press. Other targets on Wednesday were near Benghazi and Misrata, Mr Kaim said.
Mr Kaim also condemned the air and missile strikes for not differentiating between civilians and military personnel. “To start up the national dialogue and get life back to normal, the air strikes should stop immediately,” he added. “Today, there have not been any attacks from Libyan forces, from the air or from the ground. And there are no military operations on the ground in Misrata. The situation is just confined to a number of pockets of violence and snipers scattered in different areas of Misrata.”
Map: Current Developments in the unrest in Libya
4:24 am:Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has denied allegations that the government has cut off water and electricity supplies to Misurata. “We heard those rumours that the government has intentionally cut off supplies,” said . “It’s just a technical problem because of damage and looting.”
Misurata residents say the city is under attack by government forces who have severed their basic supplies and effectively besieged the last major opposition holdout in western Libya.
Omar al-Mislati, planning manager for the state water company, said up to 70,000 out of 300,000 people in Misurata had no access to water due a technical problem and damage caused by some of the fighting.
Video:NBC’s Richard Engel Almost Shot In Benghazi, Libya
Live call from Misrata via Feb17voices:
A doctor in the city says “Tank fired on building ‘very close’ (10-20m) to hospital, states hospital has power, a generator.”
3:34am: ABC Radio in Australia Reports: A man from Misurata says the town is suffering & running out of supplies. Listen:
3:19am:More on that reported explosion in Tripoli. Residents tell Reuters: “We heard another explosion just now. We see smoke rising. There are people on rooftops. It seems to be in a military area near the engineering college.
3:15am:Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the conflict in Libya may spur sales of a £65m ($106m) Eurofighter warplane.
3:12am:Residents report hearing a loud explosion in the Tripoli area, Reuters says.
This video was shown on Libyan TV. It doesn’t show Eman Al-Obeidi, just a photo of her and you can hear Eman (what we think is Eman’s voice) speaking. In the middle of the ‘secret footage’, they show a woman lying on the floor. This woman is supposedly Eman.
Eman: I shouldn’t be arrested, I am the victim here, I am the one who is reporting an incident and they don’t want me to leave here! (Eman seems overwhelmed and begins to cry or is trying not to)
* Female voice talking to Eman but hard to hear*
Eman: Why can’t you just do what expected to be done in such litigation, bring a lawyer, call any legal authorities to investigate my claim… Show the leader (Gaddafi) … Call the leader at Bab El Azizia … find me a solution!
Female voice: We don’t have someone available from Bab El Azizia to speak with you
A female now talking on the phone (claiming she is Eman’s sister): Hello, huh? huh? no no, aha, no no no, on the Libya TV … what? … I don’t know, maybe she go out with me (meaning out of this office where the taping took place) … she went to the reporters at the hotel, today. Listen, she went straight to the hotel where the reporters are staying. She seemed in shock… We want to do a formal incident reporting, the man – attacker – should be stoned (killed) She said she was attacked/raped.
*Male voice in the room now asking about a key. Her sister is having a phone conversion in the background. The mic/ sound is not good enough to hear the words clearly. Female voice explaining some legal process, then asking Eman to speak to a reporter*
Eman shouts: I don’t want to talk to them!
* Male voice trying to convince Eman to go through some process, including medical exam and assuring her that there will not hold her in the hospital*
Eman: I am not a prisoner! I want to leave.
Male voice: Calm down, calm down
Female voice: We need you to meet an official doctor and take the medical exam required.
Male voice: Hey Eman, Eman, an incident report is necessary, that is what we are doing, that is all.
* Eman is refusing the whole treatment and feels that she should be free to go home*
Eman: I want to leave, I told you just let me take a taxi and leave and you refused. I gave you my story, why can’t I leave?!
Male voice: It is a process, Eman, you need to do a medical exam.
Eman: I don’t have mental illness, why you want me to go to the hospital. So they can keep me locked there?!
* Female voice assuring her she wouldn’t be locked in the hospital and it is just a procedure required. Eman is silent and doesn’t want to talk to anyone*
Female voice: Eman, what you want to do … Eman, talk to me
Male voice: Your sister needs to go back home (meaning, talk with us so finish this and all leave)
Female voice trying to engage Eman into talking: Don’t you want to leave with your sister, Eman?
Eman: Well, if you want me to really leave, just let me go to the car – taxi – and I’ll leave!
Female voice: Without going to the hospital?!!
Eman: Same talk.. you keep repeating the same things
Female voice: Don’t you want your right? (meaning justice)
Eman shouts back: I don’t want my right
Male voice: In order for us to find those who did this we need to do the process, so we can track/identify them and catch them.
* Eman is silent again and doesn’t seem to trust anything her sister or other people in the room saying*
Male voice: If you cooperate you could leave soon (he is trying to convince her to talk the government TV station taping this video)Why won’t you cooperate?
Eman: I do not want to cooperate, I do not want to talk to Al-Libya TV station (a government TV station). I just want to leave. What cooperation you are asking me about!! If you want litigation, we did the litigation earlier in the day. That is all the cooperation your going to get from me. Anything else, you do not have the right to ask for. * A male voice mentioning something reported by Al Arabia station (different station) about the story, and he is asking Eman to elaborate*
Male voice: you said something and now it is different, you know the rope of a lie is short, right? * Eman ignores him*
Male voice kept trying to engage her to talk: You need to talk to us (meaning the station) to explain your story. People watch it, and you watch it too.
Eman: I don’t watch Al Libya station, to begin with.
Female voice: How come, isn’t it your country, Eman?
Male voice: How come, why don’t you watch it!
Eman: I don’t
Male voice: Why not?
Eman: I don’t watch it.
Male voice: Why not!? it is your country TV station, why not allow them to interview you, Eman?
Eman: I don’t want to! I don’t watch any TV … I don’t have time to watch TV, any TV, period.
Male voice: Oh, you want to talk to Al Jazeera then, is that it!?
Eman: I don’t care about Al Jazeera TV, if I did, I would have gone to them and not to ALL the reports at the hotel.
Male voice: We want to make this TV interview with you
Eman: I do not want to do this interview
Female voice: This interview will benefit you, to help you.
Eman: I am free, and I refuse too
Female and Male pressing her to talk: So who is going to do you justice?!
Female voice: Are you expecting Al Jazeera TV to bring you justice!
Eman: I want the how world to know about the scandals that taking place in Libya and the shame brought to us.
Female voice: What shame are you talking about (the female voice sounded distrust and not of someone investigating or interested to hear Eman opinion) … If from the beginning you had gone to the justice/legal system it would have been better than going to Al Jazeera.
Male voice: Your sister was so worried about you when you are gone with no news for 2 days, you seem used to been gone away from home for days without letting anyone know (an accusation to discredit Eman’s behavior).
Female voice: You made big fuss and that brought many you unnecessary worries. Eman. Do you want to go to the medical examiner for a test? (rape kit) … Talk to me, yes or no? Eman talk to me
Female voice: Are you afraid of the medical examiner? (Rape kit)
Female voice: Eman, Eman, talk to me, Eman
Male voice: Are you afraid that the result may return negative?
Female voice: Do you want to go and do the medical test or not, Eman, Eman, Eman talk to me ** Eman ignores the woman and kept silent. The final part of Eman’s recording, a lady in uniform by the door is shouting at Eman**
Female voice: People like you are damaging this country, you should be ashamed, don’t you care about all the patriots who lost their lives for the country (meaning for the Government).
Eman shouting back: No, people like you who are the ones who damaged the country and don’t even respect human rights. What does my ordeal have to do with anything else?!!
Female voice: Rights? … What about the Libyan citizens rights, did you respect that? … the people who died in the airstrikes?
Eman: What do I have to do with the airstrikes!! ** The images now back to the news studio …
A female TV report quoting Eman’s last statement in mockery: “What do I have to do with the airstrikes” … and that is Eman for you! *The report continues* I would like to focus on some important points here.
Yesterday I said with all due respect to whores, even a whore may have some
sense of patriotism when she is well aware and know that whatever is coming next is not going to be merciful/better like the past (meaning any future change/governs is not going to be better than our today’s government)Even the whore she may have better understanding that these airstrikes are the beginning for invasion, lose of freedom, homelessness and total lost. Even the whore will have sense of patriotism when it comes to her homeland Libya (basically, she shaming Eman’s actions)…. And that doesn’t mean I am trying to backstab/defame Mrs. Eman, and by the why she is not Miss but a Mrs. according to what she herself stated before, that she have been married and divorced, and God knows, we don’t want to claim something still unknown. But, sister Eman has political hate (agenda)… she is extreme radical, she is even … (the clip ended).
Yep, we messed up. That’s the word out of the Cambridge-based consulting firm Monitor Group. Between 2006 and 2008, the company maintained a highly questionable business relationship with the regime of Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator. Monitor helped Muammar Qaddafi’s son Saif write his PhD dissertation at the London School of Economics. It also hired some of the US and UK’s foremost international relations experts to write glowing editorials and essays about the Qaddafi regime’s efforts to clean up its act and enact democratic reforms. And the firm never revealed that it was all was part of a coordinated—and well-funded—effort to end Libya’s status as a pariah state.
Not long after Mother Jones reported on Monitor’s Libya project, questions arose about whether the firm had taken the proper steps to register as a lobbyist for Libya with the Justice Department. Offering advice on economic or governing reform without registering isn’t illegal. But the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) stipulates that groups like Monitor must register if they’re planning on conducting “acts in a public relations capacity for a foreign principal”—which, as we reported, is primarily what Monitor’s Libya project was all about. As we wrote back in March, Monitor decided to conduct an internal investigation into whether it had violated FARA, initially led by Eamonn Kelly, a senior partner at the firm. Later, the company brought in outside lawyers from the firm of Covington & Burling to finish the job.
The lawyers’ conclusion: yes, Monitor most certainly did break FARA law. Today, the company announced that it is retroactively registering some of its past work in Libya, as well as its more recent work with Jordan. And on Tuesday, Monitor CEO Mark Fuller, who played a key role in the Libya project, resigned. Monitor also issued a press release on the findings of its internal investigation:
These decisions reflect a thorough fact-finding and legal investigation initiated by Monitor after issues concerning its work in Libya were raised earlier this year. The investigation, conducted by the law firm of Covington & Burling, included a review of Monitor engagements with foreign governments. That review concluded that some elements of Monitor’s work in Libya from 2006 through 2008 should have been registered under FARA. It also became apparent that a more recent item of work on behalf of the Kingdom of Jordan should have been registered. Monitor will now take all appropriate measures to remediate these errors.
The Boston Globe reports that Monitor is also likely to release details on how much it paid its academics, including British academic Sir Anthony Giddens. How did Monitor mess this up so bad? From the Globe:
[Eamonn] Kelly said the failure to register was due to a misunderstanding about legal requirements. But others said it reflects a deeper problem: The company was not transparent about the fact that it was engaged in a calculated effort to burnish Khadafy’s reputation, even to professors recruited in the effort.
“If I had known that a primary purpose of the visit to Libya was to influence public opinion in the United States, I would not have gone,” Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Other professors said they did not feel misled.
Whether the DOJ actually brings charges against Fuller, et. al, remains to be seen. But given the intellectual firepower and general worldliness of the people involved in its project, Monitor’s excuse—”We didn’t know, sorry”—is less than satisfying. Hopefully, the DOJ feels the same way.
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.”
In her first interview with international or internal media, the wife of Muammer Gaddafi, Safia, accused NATO of war crimes against her country and denied rumors that her son Saif Al Arab is still alive.
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.