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Sunday, May 1, 2011

The "al-Baida Massacre," Further Behind the Scenes

April 30 2011
last update, October 12

<< Behind the Scenes of An Al Qaeda Massacre {masterlist}

Since I first posted "Behind the Scenes of the al-Baida Massacre," it's earned some attention, with a record number of views in a short span from all over the world.

It is a fascinating story, about which I was first tipped off by a commentator of the screen name Grendal. It starts with multiple videos of what I count as 22 corpses in military uniforms and civilian clothes, hands bound and apparently shot in the back of the head. The location is usually given as al-Baida, a city 100 miles east of Benghazi. Two videos feature an actor posing as an extra victim, still alive and supposedly able to vouch for the fact they were executed by their bosses for refusing to shoot protesters.

Prolem is, another video shows a portion of these same soldiers with their killers prior to their executions - and they are clearly from the "protester" camp.

And I have also learned a bit more that I'd rather write a new post for than to re-do the old one.

No Comment
Word of their death at the hands of their commanding officers, and the reason for it, likely came first from the killers themselves. It was then announced as fact by the International Federation for Human Rights, apparently considered a reputable organization. Based in France, they call themselves FIDH (Federation Internationale des ligues des Droits del'Homme), and included these 22 as part of their cited one hundred and thirty regime soldiers dead by February 23 - each and every one, in multiple instances and a variety of ways,  offed by their officers for humanitarian mutiny.

After sorting out the video evidence that all but proves these 22 at least were killed by protesters, perhaps for trying to shoot them, I decided to get a little activist. I wrote to the IFHR and explicitly told them about this horrible error on their part, hoping they would care or do or say something. My message read, in part:
The most useful thing now, for myself and everyone else, would be understanding just how it was decided that government forces were responsible for these 22 or any of the reported 130 [executions].

[IFHR President] Souhayr Belhassen cited “Libyan rights groups assessments in Benghazi and elsewhere” for the February findings. I understand vaguely that the FIDH is in part a collection of local groups. Is there any detailed report, primary evidence (written accounts, video or forensic evidence, etc.) which they provided that can be made public?

The next best thing would be a second-hand overview from someone like yourself who’s closer to that information. As one federation report mentioning these killings noted, the information is “sometimes still difficult to verify.” How would the federation go about double-checking a claim? And has this report, or collection of reports, been verified?

I also have a broader and hypothetical question for you or anyone qualified or willing to answer:

If in fact it turned out the 130 "executed for refusing to shoot protesters" and the app. 125 apparently killed by rebels, are the same number, and it was the protesters/insurgents who committed these summary executions and lynchings, what would or should be the FIDH position on that? Surely rowdy mobs of oppressed should be held to a different standard than well-armed state governments, but would it not be right to publicize that or at least set the record straight?
I sent copies of it to their North Africa/Middle East desks in Cairo and Paris, and their CEO Antoine Bernard. I never received even an automated response from any of the three. They just don't seem to care, now that regime change is moving forward. In case it matters, again, they're based in Paris, as was Nouri al-Mesmari, and France's African ambitions. (More on this, perhaps, in time.)

A Transcript!
The two-video proof of rebel atrocity was also mention on a well-done article at "Pajamas Media." This included a link to a different version with poor quality English subtitles, which I'd never seen. Below is a copy-over of what's said behind the scenes, with refined and partly guessed translations. I still mean to have a professional and scholarly transcript in Arabic and English done some time, but for now, this will suffice. It seems to fit with and explain the video and, as one would guess, is just about the opposite of the official (rebel) story. The prisoner do little talking, and I've named them by the numbers from the original article, left-to-right, #1-9 (as shown below). The interrogators are given alternately as "al keada" and "invistigator" in the subtitles. Rather than trying to sort by voice, I'll just give all interrogators off camera as R (rebels).

R: [to #9]: What type of car you shot?
#9: We didn't hit anything.
R: You hit a car, random shot - what happened to that car? The soldiers, the soldiers, you f***. Answer, you a******. Answer or we we'll kill you. You see this sword? We'll kill you. We will cut your head off.

R: Who is your king (emir)? [camera pans right to #6] This is their king, this is their king.
R: Not like this, not like this. Wait, we will make them talk.
R: Who is the one who shot? Who is the one? [to prisoner #5] Tell us and you will live. Who is the one who fired?
#5 I swear I didn't do anything. I swear they attacked us so we just responded.
R: Sit down, sit down. Pray to God.

R: Now who is your leader? [panning across the nine]
R: Wait, we'll ask this one. He knows. [pans to #8] You dog, you dirty... [pans suddenly to #9 as the "emir" points to him]
R: You are the one who fired. This one. You fired the shot, you darkie.
R: Focus here, this is important. You shot randomly.
#9: After the shooting from your side, we responded, and shot back.
R: You shot, then you shot. You're lying. You shot them the minute you saw them.
R: They don't agree on what they want to say, and they're disorganized.
#9: After we took fire from civilians ...
R: They have the right to shoot you or not. They are defending themselves.
#9: I didn't kill anyone. We all fired, but only in self-defense.
R: All of them should get their punishment.
[video cuts to the famous results of the punishment]

Another Analysis
A German-language Wordpress blog ran an English-language very long post (can take a while to load or freeze slower systems) explaining how the war is a "giant crime against Libya." It includes this episode among many, many, other interesting points. This take calls on alternate postings of the videos, first alerting me to aother one showing the "dying soldier" (I was only aware of one sequence before).

It makes a few calls I disagree with: the bearded interrogator I called "the Imam" is identified as "probably a woman." The machete-looking blade brandished is called maybe a club, and considered the murder weapon (rather than the obvious shots to the back of the head). And the "dying sldier," this writer thinks, is a real victim, injured but not dead, moved to a different spot and his head blown quite well away in another video. I haven't ruled that out, but it seems like the number of bodies (four) in the area he's shown in is the same in both videos - although it's hard to be sure. 

The videos cited in that article give the location not as al-Baida, but as Dernah, the town famous for having the highest per capita recruitment of al Qaeda fighters in Iraq. This might makes me less sure of the town this happened in, but al-Baida had the supposed mercenaries numbering 325 by other accounts. The same city has a number of those captured alive counted by a Time reporter as about 200, and 157 by Peter Brouckert at Human Rights Watch. So 125-168 of them were apparently killed by the rebels, with a handful admitted, like the 15 hanged by a mob at the courthouse in broad daylight, again in al-Baida - it could well be 130 is the remainder of their killing spree they could plausibly deny. This was at night by the video and, again, behind the scenes. So of course this portion has been fobbed off on the demonized regime.
Update Sept. 11, 2011
I've been needing for quite some time now to update this and the original post. I'm finally getting to it now. Below is a section I finally pulled from "Behind the scenes" as faulty. I've since learned the dangers of calling Libyan citizen or not based on skin color. There are quite a few Libyans with European ancestry who are as white as anyone.
Folks like this are quite sure these two videos aren’t linked by any reality, that the similarities shown are coincidence or worse. And furthermore, it's clear to them that the rebels shown in the first one are not the foreign al-Qaeda-linked Islamists Gaddafi has been shouting about. They’re just ordinary Libyans, fed-up and not taking it any more. Consider this captor shown in the video, and whom I’ll call Khalid (wearing the white jacket).

Khalid could be any local Libyan man who moved to al-Baida from Benghazi with his two daughters, after his wife died of a rare neurological disease in 2006. He might work hard in construction, struggling to make ends meet under Gaddafi’s stifling regime, hoping to send his eldest, Aisha, to college in America. But history called, and he took up arms, like this rifle, to protest. And here is Khalid about one month ago, with captor #5 guarding the left end of the room, assisting in the peaceful interrogation of these obvious outsider mercenaries.

Ironically, the Youtube commentator cited above made issue of Slavic-looking riflemen used by ... the Gaddafi regime: “There are also unconfirmed reports that serbian snipers are being used by the Gaddafi regime (only unconfirmed because the snipers were not captured alive)”
October 2/12: I'll go ahead and post some composite images of the locale of this massacre. I was unable to make sense of the painted traffic lines on the concrete. It seems jumbled, like a parking lot and a runway or highway had a baby. Below are scenes from the videos inside and outside the courtyard. I made these a while back to help locate the scene, which I've been unable to do yet, looking around al Baida, Shahet, Labraq, Dernah, and Makhtuba. On the last two, update forthcoming.

It's a small walled area (walls about six feet high, conderblock and concrete), with its wall just ten feet off a two-lane paved road. There's little else around, suggesting its a way outside of whatever town. A dirt trail parallels the road on the opposite side. Scrub prolferates. The hazy weather and weak mid-day light mess up my tricks to establish directions. A few angled trees grow to the right of the entry way, and from a distance we can see three more spindly ones to the left as well. The inside is partly dirt and/or grass, but mostly concrete. It looks like an overly-marked parking lot, a confusing montage of white and yellow lines at odd angles suggesting a lot and a highway or runway were fused together. Inner buildings are only faintly discernable to the right side and the rear. Little else can be told.

October 12: The Airport Link
Goheda video -Libyan Crisis: Events, Causes and Facts shows these victims after the narrator explains how protesters "were able to storm Hussein Ashweiti [phoenetic] and Shehat military barracks, and al Abraq [aka Labraq] Air Base. They confiscated a variety of weapons and detained a number of soldiers." Three locations are given, one perhaps near Misrata (see Video Study: Rebels Attack Libyan Barracks), and the other two of which I can place as near each other and just east of al-Baida. Labraq airport is mentioned in the original article as a target of protesters intent on stopping planeloads of "African mercenaries" from getting out free and alive. It's not clear which location the weapons or soldiers were from, but somehow I think Labraq is the place.

Further updates coming soon. 


  1. It's a small walled area :


    @ 1.19 @ 1.31

    just described as Gaddafi's underground prisons

  2. just an add of some interesting vids. pls don't delete

    Bayda press tv :

    in the 5 days since the uprising began : @ 5.18 chief medical hospital bayda faraq saber : 63 died

    @ 6.00 this is the security HQ , police took position on the roof and shot 2 people

    @ 6.13 this are the first people killed in Libiya since the uprising began


    @ 5.21 a kid 8 years old . @ 5.34 faraq saber: she was playing outside the home and there was this foreign soldier tried to escape from bayda and they shoot anyone in the street

    [the girl mentioned seems the same as the 8 year old girl that lived in the building opposite to entrance of shahat katiba]

    @ 6.32 military base outskirts of town

  3. peaceful protesters labraq :

    Raging battle within the Ketbibh Shahat 19/2/2011


    @ 0.15


    @ 14.40


    Uploaded on Feb 16, 2012 [never mind the music or the photoshopped airscenes]

    A documentary film about the battle Abraq Airport .. avi

    Remarkably on 22.51 : loyalists on a tank

    original vids :


    labeled as Sunday, 20 February, 2011 Airport battle [on a day it's apparently rained heavily ]

  4. battalion Khamis white city [=benghazi] 17-2-2011



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