last updates July 22
I just the other day finally erected a post dedicated to the early allegations of sub-Saharan, foreign, African mercenaries used by Gaddafi against his people. I would have hoped the original rumor-based disinformation had faded away by now with debunking and time. But it was great timing that Brian Souter tipped me off, among many other things (and thanks, mate) to a renewed allegation of just this. On July 7, Iranian Press TV passed it on:
Libyan revolutionaries have captured a number of foreign mercenaries following heavy fighting with forces loyal to the country's ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.First, it should be noted, these alleged mercs aren't attacking "protesters" or even attacking rebel military positions. The rebels came to them, in an offensive capacity, allied with the foreign NATO aggressors. And, as later reported, they looted the hell out of the place and torched several homes - the population suffered no deaths or beatings, but that might be because they had all fled before the rebels got there. The Agence France Presse report, featured in Pakistan's Dawn paper, same July 7:
The revolutionaries arrested a number of African mercenaries that were mostly from Ghana and Mali, AFP reported.
GUALISH, Libya: Libyan rebels on Wednesday seized the desert hamlet of Gualish on the first day of a Nato-backed push on Tripoli and captured a number of African mercenaries, an AFP correspondent said.The news seems to have helped spur the American NPR to have a look and report back July 8, somewhat critically, about "Gaddafi's African fighters." One Ghanian worker (a plasterer) was taken in, in a mix-up like the old days, but others were in military fatigues and acknowledged being paid fighters. However, "they also say they were living in Libya as foreign workers before the uprising began, and they became soldiers for hire only after being promised money or documents." The practice is becoming more widespread, NPR reported, leaving the Libyan army almost as foreign as domestic:
Buoyed by French arms drops and Nato-led air strikes, the rebels attacked positions in the Gualish area, in the plains north of their enclave in the Nafusa Mountains southwest of Tripoli.
The correspondent embedded with the rebels said they captured a number of mercenaries, some of whom were seen in a pick-up truck and told AFP they were from Ghana and Mali.
Captured Libyan army officers, in interviews conducted separately, estimated that some 50 percent of Gadhafi's fighting force these days is made up of sub-Saharan Africans.All that's keeping the rest from defecting, says one of the men who lost Qawalish, are fear or money. And it could be that patriotism or righteous anti-Imperialist fervor, and the fact those still left haven't been defeated or bombed are factors that still play in.
If those captured in Zintan are anything to go by, even though the Africans were paid to fight, they aren't the fearsome mercenaries described by many rebels. None of them had previous military training.
Abu Jela Dau Arafa, 38, is a Libyan captain who was captured on Wednesday when the rebels overran the village of Gualish. He says Gadhafi doesn't have enough soldiers to man the front lines now, and that's why he's hiring sub-Saharan Africans.
Other captured Libyan soldiers describe a force that is suffering from lack of basic supplies like food and fuel. They say desertions are common. Many of the enlisted men stay on only out of fear or promises of money, they say.
But the pressures are immense - by now, Libya's loyal forces have, in the course of defending their homeland from a foreign-backed overthrow, suffered over three months of aerial decimation. NATO itself brags of destroying a third or a half of all Libya's armor and moveable weaponry, much of it luckily carrying its crew when hit, denying the enemy one more resource (they of course "regret" this).
Besides this God-like and inescapable death from above, there are some defections and desertions to absorb the loss of, the occasional losses to rebel fire, artillery, sword, club, hatchet ... Many brave Libyan soldiers, especially black-skinned ones accused of being foreigners, died in the line of duty because lynch mobs felt empowered by the magical absolver - the world believed these negroes were vile mercenaries.
Therefore, even if genuine, professional, and effective mercenaries might finally be appearing in July, it would be no huge surprise. That the best that can still be found to this end is these amateur, found-around, semi-mercs is a sign of the Libyan military's resiliency. It might take a while still to convince these guys it was all over months ago when President Obama said some really stupid sh*t he just can't back down from now.
It must, however, be noted - even if full on squads of professional paid fighters were proven, now - it does nothing to support the earlier, and criminal, disinformation campaign. Someone first seeded the lie of foreign fighters brought in by the third full day of protests, Feb. 18. As expert Issaka Souare told Voice of America on March 1 "The reason why I doubt the thesis is that we started hearing these claims just the third day of the revolt, and I would imagine it would take some time before you really can go and have recourse to these mercenaries, unless you are foreseeing that your own army is not going to be loyal to you."
For this and other reasons as well, the malicious meme was unlikely and apparently untrue. And yet it was widely accepted as self-evident, and acted on with impunity by the vilest sectors of Libyan society. It took its toll on probably several hundreds of black men killed, hundreds more assaulted, captured, and quietly released, and tens or hundreds of thousands sent fleeing to Europe, to the desert, or to the bottom of the sea just to get away from a place they were working peacefully in not long ago.
The effect on Libya itself of this mercenary mania will linger like a festering scar for a long while. Don't take this new rebel spin bomb as any sort of justification.