Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Video Study: Demonstrators "Shot" by Unseen Gunmen

September 21, 2011

In my quest for the elusive video proof of innocent protesters shot by government forces in Libya (link forthcoming), I've found a rare near-match I'll consider close enough to look at in detail. There are two ways this video from the uprising's first hours has been read by others in the past. I don't quite believe either version, but only one of them is outright wrong and deceptive.

1) The Standard Version
First, how most English-speaking people have seen it, via al Jazeera English:
Protesters clash with police in Benghazi, Libya
Uploaded by AlJazeeraEnglish on Feb 16, 2011

The first few seconds here show the scene in question - unarmed demonstrators, teenagers mostly, it seems (one holds a basketball) go behind a wall. We don't see what's on the other side. Shots are fired and they come running back out. The reporter here says "a number of injured are carried from the scene." One injured is seen carried out. It looks pretty clearly like the government firing on demonstrators. It's said this happened "outside a police station" in Benghazi on Tuesday February 15, in the initial response to the arrest of "activist" (provocateur and liar, I hear) Fathi Terbil. Terbil was released the same day, but violent protests started and continued heedless, only escalating daily from there into full-on civil war.

And that was all because of obvious, evil, unprovoked state violence like what we can see (in our mind's eyes) here.

2) The Other Version:
Proof of aljazeera lies against Libya
Uploaded by Gaddafi4evr on Jul 25, 2011
(and earlier by Libya17f, not a rebel outfit - original link if itstill exists and I can find it)

This video starts with a clip cut about the same way as the above, but with different narration in Arabic (al Jazeera original, I presume, from the title). It says (per the subtitles in English):
At least six dead in confrontations against Libyan security and demonstrators in white, east of the country. The security men used live bullets in addition to securing a sniper against the crowd, which demonstrated peacefully.
First, I suspect a mix-up. No one was killed in Benghazi Feb. 15. Many of those shown wear white, but why mention that? The audio says it like "baida," or "al Baida," the city in the east whose name means 'the white' (short for 'the white Monastery'). This audio refers to clashes in al Baida on the 16th, but the video is Benghazi on the 15th. Huh! I corrected a Libyan!

Moving on from there, this video also has the original uncut video (or at least cut differently than this one), and it adds serious ambiguity to the situation. For one thing, the video says, the protesters chant al Fateh (for Gaddafi's revolution). I can't tell for sure, but it sounds about right, per the audio.

And at least one of them is carrying a mid-sized all-green Libyan flag, first seen from a distance. These are the people who charge behind a wall and then run from those apparent gunshots. We then see another, or the same, green flag zipping by quite visibly. It's carried by an exuberant black-skinned youth running by the camera in the chaos, just as the injured protester is about to be carried past and around the corner. Al Jazeera's edit somehow missed that.

This video doesn't specify who the unseen gunmen were, but by implication they seem to be anti-government, maybe Nescafe-drugged, al Qaeda terrorists. I'm not so sure that version is true either, and not even sure anyone was shot here. This video is confusing and hard to get a clear reading on. Let's get specific.

The Scene / Protester Groupings
The long version (video 2) starts with a still pro-government protest in the distance, with the flag and chanting noted. They're roughly on the right side of the screen, across street from the walled compound.

There's another group to the left, across the street. Those furthest stand in a line across the gate into the compound, and others apparently allied with them (kids mostly) mill about between them and the camera,  just outside the walls. It stands to reason but we can't be sure that those on this side are with the anti-Gaddafi crowd, allied with other protesters inside the walls.

At 1:10 the pro side runs towards the gateway, causing some of the kids nearer the camera to start, as in a flinch. The lines meet in an unclear nature and overall, people start pouring inside the walls at about 1:18. Shots begin at 1:24, and the shooting and running continue for the rest of the video. The one green flag we see clearly runs through the presumably anti area, and the camera doesn't avoid it, but again, it's not fully clear they're all on the same side. It's perhaps just not as hostile as it would get in a few days. Civility might still hold sway enough the different sides could still run past each other without fear of beheading.

The possibilities here are complex. We seem to have two sides, both peaceful, meeting off-camera. Then shots are fired, perhaps in the air to break it all up, a couple bullets ricocheted off low clouds, I don't know. The injured could be from one side or the other, this just isn't clear.

Video Edits
Video 2, the long version, is not uncut. There is an edit at about 1:00 just after one of those Libyan-looking pickup trucks (white with a red squiggle) leaves. It resumes as the pro-green crowd surges in. The first view of the green flag and the "al Fateh" chanting both occur before this one edit.

Video 1 apparently started with this copy and is just surgically altered from there. It starts only with the surge that obscures the green flag among them, and also misses the clearer chanting. It then continuous through the shooting and first of the fleeing until another cut to skip the green flag again. It only resumes after the injured guy is carried past and the camera's following him close-up. From this there's no sign of affiliation at all, just people, and apparently someone shooting them - clear enough for most.

Incongruous Violence / My Best Guess
First, everything else I see shows February 15, while marking the first violent protests, relativelty peaceful with few or no gunshot injuries and no deaths. It's quite early for even the boldest of would-be insurgents to be shooting at people in the open - least of all at a police station! Plus, if terrorist protesters were shooting loyal, peaceful Libyans at about hour one of violent protests or even before, I'd think the government would have noted it. As far as I can see, they haven't, and no one cites firing anywhere that day- no fatalities. Goheda cites the first deaths in Benghazi (six) as happening on the evening of the 16th as protesters raided and burned police stations. Wikipedia's "First Battle of Benghazi" (there was no second one) has the first deaths only on the 17th. The UNHCR report lists no deaths for the 15th or 16th at all. The Guardian's live blog says for the 15th:
The online edition of Libya's privately owned Quryna newspaper, which is based in Benghazi, reported that demonstrators had petrol bombs and threw stones.

It said a crowd protested outside a local government office to demand the release of the activist [Terbil], and then went to the city's Shajara square where demonstrators clashed with police and government supporters.

Government supporters have now taken over the square, according to reports. Fourteen people were injured including 10 police officers, but none of the injuries was serious, the newspaper said.
Here it's said we have "several injured," which, if they're not talking police, must be about four.  No one died. No serious injuries. No shooting. But there were shots! And blood!

Two possibilities, one imaginative, the other more likely:

1) It could be fake. I'd say the gunshots could be loud firecrackers, but for the bloodied kid. And I could see that as special effects, but for the gunshots. So hypthetically, it could have all been a staged bit of fakery, by whichever side (both) might have a motive to demonize the other. But how do you get so many people to run from firecrackers?

2) The injured kid we see was bloodied up in a hand-to-hand scuffle, or by a tossed rock maybe, and the shots were in the air to break it up. The police may have saved him from further injury for some punk remark. His friends carried him off, either to make him look gravely injured for some cameras, or just because he's a pansy, or felt a bit woozy. Again, could be from either side, but I suspect anti-Gaddafi.

Anyone else have a better explanation?


  1. Sticking just to Al Bayda,I did look, even among videos solely labelled in arabic (but for maximum publicity, I guess they would have been in english too..) but no luck.
    But there was a video of two dead Africans being paraded in Al Bayda on the 18th Feb, uploaded on the 19th. They are seen on the ground in another video, without the green flag which was been pushed into the hands of one.
    The same uploader shows video of Al Bayda hospital apparently from the 17th, make what you will of that..
    But again no dead protesters.

  2. Hmm, some grave injuries shown there. Not for the faint of heart. (I meant the hospital). The first victim shown does seem extremely dead, and civilian - shot by someone. I guess the connection here is the death toll. I'm still undecided/unclear there, but six as said might well be inaccurate. The 17th is when it really hit the fan there and went quick. Main point here was just to clear up the confusion-AJ wasn't saying six dead in Benghazi, as it might seem.

    The two videos, I agree those are apparently the same guys.Side effect of that decision people there were killed by mercenaries. Apparently the police around there getting blamed for the shooting were mostly black.

  3. Sorry,Adam, I meant to post the earlier comment under Al Baide snipers.
    Back to topic, Al Jazeera calls this an "unconfirmed video".
    According to the UK Sunday Telegraph, Nick Meo reporting from Cairo (!) 20 Feb,
    Demonstrators claimed the regime had unleashed French-speaking African mercenaries against them, recruited from nearby countries such as Chad to help prop up the regime. Shaky videos filmed secretly from inside buildings and posted on YouTube showed the soldiers on the streets of Benghazi. Several were reportedly caught by the crowd and lynched.
    A British-based Libyan, Ahmed, who asked for the rest of his name to be withheld, said demonstrators had been attacked by Colonel Gaddafi's African mercenaries. "It started peacefully because the people want their country back after 42 years," he told The Sunday Telegraph

    This nicely sets the scene, through unconfirmed reports from anti-government sources, for the folks back home.
    Nabila Ramdani also reported from Cairo for the sister Daily Telegraph on the 20th,

    "Heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, are being used to murder scores of pro-democracy campaigners in Colonel Gaddafi's Libya with the death toll already "well into three figures", it has emerged.

    As the violence in the Arab dictatorship continued, a regional medical coordinator in the eastern city of Benghazi said bodies were piling up in hospitals.

    "We must be talking at least 150 dead since the start of the demonstrations last week, with many more seriously injured," he said.

    "Tanks and helicopter gunships full of foreign mercenaries are fighting gangs of demonstrators. At least one dead man had been hit by an anti-aircraft missile, while other bodies are riddled with heavy machine gun fire."

    (where is the Youtube evidence?) with accompanying YouTube footage for Telegraph readers...
    "of course the footage cannot be independently verified" says the speaker, over the description "Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog, estimates that 84 protesters have been killed so far. (after 3 days of protests).The speaker continues:
    "it is thought to show members of Libya's security forces seen wearing yellow hats firing at crowds...."

    It shows no such thing from what I can see here. (posted 19 Feb) I don't have the original Youtube reference. The voice over adds
    "Human Rights Watch says 35 people were killed here in Benghazi on Friday"
    (19th)...cue UK Foreign Secretary's Anger...we know the rest.
    William Hague:
    "In Libya we are particularly concerned about reports of heavy weapons fire against protesters and the sniper unit also being engaged....receiver reports of upto 35 bodies arriving at one hospital alone..."

    Article posted 6.40PM GMT Saturday 19 Feb.
    THE sniper unit?? Yellow hats??? As the telegraph reports "the western media has only got hold of the footage through Youtube."This amateur footage PURPORTS to show security forces" (not with yellow hats this time...) "firing their weapons at protesters" It shows nothing concrete, so nothing is proven.

  4. Yep-some deadpeople, number vague but alarmingly high, they're sure. Perps were African mercenaries shooting missiles from helicopters with Abdullah Sennoussi and a ton of gold boullion, according to rebel faker "A" who testifies personally to half the killings, but refused to reveal his full name because he's also rebel faker "B" who gave us the other half of the unconfirmed killings. None of them were involved in anything ridiculous like armed attacks, of course...

    That may be a flippant summary,but as I said, I'm feeling a need to be less scholarly for a wee bit.

    The yellow hard-hat mercenaries of course covered - they hold sticks only, and enter the same building they'd been trying to guard, after making two arrests of people who rushed at them. It's all on video, but was attached to ridiculously inaccurate characterizations.

    I need to have posts now for organizing these deeper details. If you happen to draft something, I'd be happy to post it...

  5. PS there is a fascinating Australian radio ABC RN interiew here with Oliver Miles, former UK ambassador to Libya, at 06.50 Sydney time, at 06.50 hrs, 17 February, 16th February UK time. Libyan protests: Is Gaddafi's time up?
    . Miles describes the protests of 15 February as one by women relating to killings in 1996 at Abu Salem prison. . He further thinks the Day of Action on 17th (the following day for him) to be "full of potential surprises".

    A follow up interview on 21 February with someone called Heba Morayef from Human Rights Watch in Cairo,said reports of 173 dead had come exclusively from a network of medical contacts with doctors on duty, allegedly. "100 just yesterday and today,viz Saturday/Sunday 19/20 February Libyan time " Mainly shot in head/neck/chest(?) with light gunfire. "three days ago Bayda saw a lot of violence" (viz 17th)she says.
    On 22 Feb in the same programme (21 Feb Libyan time), a Libyan doctor Geith Yonis in Australia says that although the Al Abraq Airport,Al Bayda, has not been taken and that the east is QUIET at the moment following his recent phone contacts with Libya.

    Again, I ask, where is the youtube evidence
    for this huge death and massive injury toll??

  6. France 24 quotes a privately owned Benghazi newspaper Al Quryna, in turn quoting a "director of a local hospital" , Abdelkrim Gubaili that most of the 38 injured on the 15th February were security officials. The director's name translates as عبد الكريم الجبيلي
    and also as Abdelkarim, Abdulkarim Jubaili ,Jubayli variously.
    There is nothing on the internet connecting anyone of that name with any hospital in Benghazi.
    From CBS News, 7.02am 20 February 2011, A doctor in Benghazi said his hospital [one of two in Libya's second-largest city] has seen the bodies of at least 200 protesters killed by Gadhafi's forces over the last few days. The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, as did several other witnesses in Libya. Allegedly.

    However, elsewhere one reads of Osama al-Gubayli, a fighter from Benghazi, in the following Time World No Friends in Sight: Libya's Rebels Routed Once More - Abigail Hauslohner,reporting from Bin Jawad, Published: Tuesday March 29, 2011 "..."Bin Jawad didn't want to support us from the beginning," says Fayez Mohamed Zwei, a fighter from Ajdabiyah. "The whole east was with us except Bin Jawad."

  7. The France 24 article in English here is entitled Violent protests rock Libyan city of Benghazi , published 16 February 2011.
    "Hundreds of people demonstrated in the port city of Benghazi in a rare show of discontent in the North African nation that has been tightly controlled by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    The Benghazi-based, privately-owned Quryna newspaper, quoted Abdelkrim Gubaili, the director of a local hospital, as saying 38 people were injured in the clashes, most of them security officials. They had all since been discharged from the hospital, he added.
    France 24 speaks with Abdullah Darrat, spokesperson for anti-Gaddafi group
    By FRANCE 24

    In an interview with FRANCE 24 Wednesday, Abdulla Darrat - a US-based Libyan exile who is a spokesman for Khalas!, an opposition Web site also known by its the English translation Enough! – said the protests were sparked by the arrest of a Libyan human rights activist."

  8. See also A Libyan-American's Take on Unrest, audio talk on The Take Away (US) featurning interviews with Ahmed Almegaryaf is a Libyan-American whose uncle is an opposition leader. And Abdulla Darrat, founding member of Khalas, hopes to provide a network of information for Libyans at home and abroad.
    "Over the last four days they have systematically annihilated, they are killing people, picking them off one by one in the streets, anybody who protests."
    — Abdullah Darrat. Allegedly. Death count upto 240.. Almegaryaf says that they killed doctors in hospitals in Tripoli (1.26), the ones treating wounded protesters. Almegaryaf's father was reportedly kidnapped in Egypt in 1990, and is thought to have been held in a prison in Libya ever since. His evidence is reportedly Skype. "they're killing anyone that's out on the streets....protesting or not...they're getting rid of...(cut off)"

    "ot 4 days they have systematically annhialiated...killing people..picking them off one by one..."(Darrat).....


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