Tag Archives: Misurata

Libya’s transitional leader declares liberation, sets Islamist tone for future

By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

BENGHAZI, LibyaLibya‘s transitional leader declared his country’s liberation on Sunday, three days after the hated dictator Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed.

He called on Libyans to show “patience, honesty and tolerance” and eschew hatred as they embark on rebuilding the country at the end of an 8-month civil war.

The transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil set out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying that Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation in the country and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing in the air, but rather to chant “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great. He then stepped aside and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.

“This revolution was looked after by God to achieve victory,” he told the crowd at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Gadhafi began. He thanked those who fell in the fight against Gadhafi’s forces. “This revolution began peacefully to demand the minimum of legitimate rights, but it was met by excessive violence.”

Abdul-Jalil said new banks would be set up to follow the Islamic banking system, which bans charging interest. For the time being, he said interest would be cancelled from any personal loans already taken out less than 10,000 Libyan dinars (about $7,500).

He also announced that all military personnel and civilians who have taken part in the fight against Gadhafi would be promoted to the rank above their existing one. He said a package of perks would later be announced for all fighters.

“Thank You, thank you to the fighters who achieved victory, both civilians and military,” he said. He also paid tribute to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia, The Arab League and the European Union. NATO, which aided the anti-Gadhafi fighters with airstrikes, performed its task with “efficiency and professionalism.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyas-transitional-leader-declares-liberation-sets-islamist-tone-163539334.html


In ‘Gun’ we Trust

Libyan regime says it is arming civilians, teaching them how to shoot

By Karin Laub, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

GAZAHIYA, Libya – A 22-year-old university student balanced an unloaded grenade launcher on his shoulder, grunted loudly in place of an explosion as he pulled the trigger, then handed the weapon to the next man.

The military drill on the lawn of a clinic in a remote village in government-controlled western Libya was part of what Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime has tried to portray as a large-scale arming and training of the home front. Foreign reporters on a government tour were also taken to a school where a couple of teenage boys fired Kalashnikov rifles in the air.

The scenes appeared to have been hastily arranged. Men at a desert shooting range — barrels set up as targets on a rocky plain — said they had been bused to the site for the first time that day. A few dozen middle school boys were participating in a military rally in their school yard and some said they had received their fatigues just a day earlier.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said last week that hundreds of thousands of rifles were being distributed to civilians to defend the home front, a claim that is impossible to verify because of tight restrictions on journalists in western Libya. About a dozen Libyans interviewed in three different areas recently said they had been handed Kalashnikovs from municipal weapons depots.

The reports that the government was arming supporters to suppress anti-regime demonstrations in the capital Tripoli first emerged at the start of the uprising against Gadhafi in mid-February. The government claims it is arming people to defend against foreign ground troops — even though there are none in western Libya — rather than to fight fellow Libyans.

However, the attempt to show civilians training with weapons could be a sign that Gadhafi loyalists are growing more nervous about their grip on western Libya. There has been persistent fighting in two major pockets of rebel resistance in that part of the country, including the coastal city of Misrata where rebels have held out during a two-month onslaught.

Those training Wednesday in the Tarhouna district, 70 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of the capital of Tripoli, seemed unsure of who their enemy was. Some struggled with whether they would shoot at fellow Libyans who have risen up against Gadhafi and now control the east of the country.

Volunteers said they had been told they must defend their homes against NATO ground troops, but would not be asked to go to the front. Some dismissed the rebels as al-Qaida-led ex-convicts or foreigners, repeating government propaganda that has tried to paint the rebels as Islamic extremists.

High school student Sanna Kanouni, 16, said she was learning how to handle a rifle to repel the “barbarian, colonial crusader aggression.” Asked what she knew about the rebels in the east, she said they are drug-taking foreigners, not Libyans — mimicking a line also put out by the government.

In her crammed classroom a lesson in taking apart a Kalashnikov was under way. Kanouni briefly fumbled with the weapons parts, gave up and pumped her fist to the pro-Gadhafi chants of her classmates.

Outside the high school, students posed with Kalashnikovs, some of them firing in the air.

High school students in Libya have traditionally received some weapons training, students and teachers at the school said, though they disagreed on the starting age of military training and on what exactly was involved.

At an elementary and middle school in the nearby village of Sagya, two dozen boys who appeared to be around 11 or 12 years old and were dressed in military fatigues participated in a pro-Gadhafi rally on the school grounds.

They briefly marched and stood at attention. Their principal, Abdel Razek Mahmoudi, said the boys had started marching drills two weeks ago, but were not touching guns.

However, 11-year-old Abdullah Rajab Iyad, said he’d been allowed to handle a gun earlier that day. The principal, overhearing the conversation, abruptly led the boy away.

Men in their 20s fired wildly into the air in the school yard, from amid the children. The program ended with a competition among about 20 men to see who was fastest at taking apart a Kalashnikov and putting it back together again.

Abdel Monem al-Muftah, who oversees the training of civilians in Tarhouna, said about 200 people each have been trained at 15 sites, ranging in age from 18 to 70.

On the clinic grounds in Gazahiya, several dozen men sat in circles, each group learning about a different weapon. The training seemed basic at best.

Mohammed Jumma, a 22-year-old computer science student, was handed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher without ammunition. The instructor told him to make sure no one was behind him before he fired — the weapon sends out a powerful backblast. He then corrected Jumma’s stance, left foot forward if the launcher is on the right shoulder.

Jumma pulled the trigger. The anticlimactic click that followed was not deemed satisfying, and he was asked to fire again, this time with a loud yell, before the launcher was handed to the next in line.

Moammar al-Ghrara, a 37-year-old Arabic teacher, said he would command a group of 40 men if the time came to defend the neighbourhood. Al-Ghrara refused to entertain the thought that the rebels were ordinary Libyans.

When pressed, he said he would shoot at anyone, including Libyans, if they attacked his area.

The heavy weapons were displayed at the desert shooting range. Four men in fatigues crouching on the ground fired heavy machine-guns toward barrels. Others fired off grenade launchers and an anti-aircraft gun, to the chants of “Allahu Akbar.”

Omar Musbah Omar, 23, said he has been training off and on for the past month, and that he and each of his four brothers had been given Kalashnikovs to keep at home. He said he would never raise a weapon against a fellow Libyan.

But, he said: “We’re ready for NATO.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-regime-says-arming-civilians-teaching-them-shoot-183128927.html


Pro-Gadhafi forces shell western city of Misrata for hours while NATO officials meet

By Karin Laub,Maggie Michael, The Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy shelling Friday on Misrata, pushing troops and tanks into the rebel-held western city, a witness said, while NATO officials struggled to overcome differences over its mission to dislodge the defiant Libyan leader.

Elsewhere in Libya, NATO warplanes struck Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte in the east, Libyan TV said. In the capital of Tripoli, there were reports of heightened security measures in an apparent attempt to prevent anti-government protests.

A helicopter circled over Misrata for several hours, apparently spotting targets for artillery in Libya’s third-largest city, in defiance of the NATO-enforced no-fly zone. Forces bombarded the city with fire from tanks, artillery and rockets.

Eight bodies of civilians were taken to a hospital but there are many causalities among the fighters who took guns and arms to defend their city, said the resident, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his given name, Abdel-Salam, for fear of retaliation.

The assault by Gadhafi forces was the heaviest in the 50-day-old siege of Misrata — the only major remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya.

His troops have continued to attack rebel positions as part of a deadlocked civil war sparked two months ago by anti-government protests. The international community stepped into the conflict a month ago, with NATO unleashing airstrikes on Gadhafi-linked military targets.

The latest attacks followed new shows of defiance by Gadhafi on Thursday and by his daughter, Aisha, who rallied a crowd early Friday from a balcony at her father’s compound that was hit by U.S. warplanes 25 years ago.

Libyan TV said airstrikes targeted Sirte, although it did not provide details. Explosions were also heard from what appeared to be NATO strikes against Gadhafi’s forces near the coastal town of Brega.

Gadhafi controls the west of the country, while the rebels hold much of the east, with the front shifting back and forth.

In the capital of Tripoli, participants in a Facebook group said snipers were deployed on rooftops in the Tajoura neighbourhood and that security was tight around mosques.

On Thursday, Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join protests on Friday. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/her-fathers-compound-bombed-25-years-ago-gadhafis-20110414-230254-105.html


World raises pressure on Libya, rebels hold key towns

By Maria Golovnina | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Rebels downed a military aircraft on Monday as they fought a government bid to take back Libya‘s third city, Misrata, a witness said, while foreign ministers discussed how to help them oust Muammar Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s forces have been trying for days to push back a revolt that has won over large parts of the military, ended his control over eastern Libya and is holding the government at bay in western cities near the capital Tripoli.

In both Libya’s third city, Misrata, 200 km (125 miles) to the east, and Zawiyah, a strategic refinery town 50 km (30 miles) to the west, rebels with military backing were holding the town centers against repeated government attacks.

“An aircraft was shot down this morning while it was firing on the local radio station. Protesters captured its crew,” the witness, Mohamed, told Reuters by telephone.

“Fighting to control the military air base started last night and is still going on. Gaddafi’s forces control only a small part of the base. Protesters control a large part of this base where there is ammunition.”

Foreign governments are increasing the pressure on Gaddafi to leave in the hope of ending fighting that has claimed at least 1,000 lives and restoring order to a country that accounts for 2 percent of the world’s oil production.

SANCTIONS

The U.N. Security Council has slapped sanctions on Gaddafi and other Libyan authorities, imposed an arms embargo and frozen Libyan assets, while making clear that those who used violence against civilians would face international justice.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and others were holding bilateral talks at a human rights conference in Geneva to coordinate further action.

European powers including erstwhile ally Italy said it was time for Gaddafi to quit and Clinton said the United States was “reaching out” to opposition groups.

A U.S. official in Geneva said a central aim of sanctions was to “send a message not only to Gaddafi … but to the people around Gaddafi, who are the ones we’re really seeking to influence.”

Revolutions in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt have helped to ignite resentment of four decades of often bloody political repression under Gaddafi as well as his failure to use Libya’s oil wealth to tackle widespread poverty and lack of opportunity.

Gaddafi himself has been defiant, but a spokesman struck a new, conciliatory tone at a briefing on Monday.

Spokesman Mussa Ibrahim conceded that government forces had fired on civilians, but said this was because they were not properly trained.

“So they shot and killed some civilians,” he said. “We never denied that hundreds of people have been killed.”

He also said the revolt had “started as a genuine peaceful movement.”

“We also believe it is time for change,” he said. “But this movement has been hijacked by the West … and by Islamic militants.”

Regional experts expect rebels eventually to take the capital and kill or capture Gaddafi, but add that he has the firepower to foment chaos or civil war — a prospect he and his sons have warned of.

ZAWIYAH

Rebels holding Zawiyah said about 2,000 troops loyal to Gaddafi had surrounded the city.

“We will do our best to fight them off. They will attack soon,” said a former police major who switched sides and joined the rebellion. “If we are fighting for freedom, we are ready to die for it.”

Residents even in parts of the capital Tripoli have thrown up barricades against government forces. A general in the east of the country, where Gaddafi’s power has evaporated, told Reuters his forces were ready to help rebels in the west.

“Our brothers in Tripoli say: “We are fine so far, we do not need help’. If they ask for help we are ready to move,” said General Ahmed el-Gatrani, one of most senior figures in the mutinous army in Benghazi.

Opposition forces are largely in control of Libya’s oil facilities, which are mostly located in the east, and output has been reduced to a trickle.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note to its clients that the unrest could mean Libyan supplies were unavailable to the market for months.

Benchmark Brent oil futures were slightly lower at just under $112 a barrel.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, opponents of the 68-year-old leader said they had formed a National Libyan Council to be the “face” of the revolution, but it was unclear who they represented.

They said they wanted no foreign intervention and had not made contact with foreign governments.

The “Network of Free Ulema,” claiming to represent “some of Libya’s most senior and most respected Muslim scholars,” issued a statement urging “total rebellion” and endorsing the formation of an “interim government” announced two days ago.

FOREIGN WORKERS STRANDED

Western leaders, emboldened by evacuations that have brought home many of their citizens from the vast desert state, have been speaking out clearly against Gaddafi.

“We have reached, I believe, a point of no return,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Sunday, adding it was “inevitable” that Gaddafi would leave power.

Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair, said he had spoken to Gaddafi on Friday and told him to go.

“He was in denial that these things are going on,” Blair said. “The strategic objective is that there is a change in leadership in Libya with the minimum further bloodshed. Far too many people have died; there has been far too much violence.”

Blair helped to end the Western isolation of Gaddafi over his support for international terrorism after he agreed to renounce weapons of mass destruction, paving the way for big British business deals in Libya.

Wealthy states have sent planes and ships to bring home expatriate workers but many more, from poorer countries, are stranded. Thousands of Egyptians streamed into Tunisia on Sunday, complaining Cairo had done nothing to help them.

The United Nations refugee agency said on Sunday nearly 100,000 people have fled violence in Libya in the past week in a growing humanitarian crisis.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/gaddafi-unflinching-rebel-city-fears-counter-attack-20110227-234010-459.html