October 24, 2011
edits Oct. 26
Benghazi, February 25, Daily Mail: Outside the rebels were jubilant. Inside the court I came face to face with Gaddafi's savage mercenaries: RICHARD PENDLEBURY files this dramatic dispatch from Benghazi
They were a pretty sorry bunch, these ‘Gaddafi mercenaries’. Assembled for my inspection in a scruffy, whitewashed room on the top floor of the courthouse building in ‘free’ Benghazi, six West African men shuffled nervously under the stern gaze of Arab youths.
If they tried to speak they were told to shut up. You could smell their fear.
And no wonder. A few days ago the boot was on the other foot. These men are alleged to have been among several thousand foreign thugs and gunmen that Muammar Gaddafi sent against his own people, to kill and destroy and quell the uprising in eastern Libya.
On the evidence mercenaries - these or any - were used in Libya's second city, Pendlebury offered:
In the past week anti-aircraft cannon and shoulder-launched rockets were deployed at close range against civilians armed with stones. Mobs of Gaddafi thugs in plastic construction helmets – dubbed ‘yellow hats’ by the protesters – also killed with machetes and clubs.
Reliable medical sources told me that more than 1,000 people have died so far in Benghazi as a result of Gaddafi-orchestrated violence. Some were killed when funeral processions for earlier casualties were attacked by snipers.
That number sounds extremely high, especially if it's meant to include, as it would seem, only "protester" deaths. These funeral processions occurred, four days in a row, right against the main military base in the city. I agree that many participating were shot dead by government forces. Each day, the protests devolved into fights, with the insurgents better armed each day. On the 19th they were shooting lots of machine guns stolen from nearby, and on the 20th they blew the place open with a suicide bomber (hidden in the funeral procession) and started slaughtering the soldiers. This is where the deaths happened - they were enraged by the side-effect of their own rage. They stole all the weapons. That's what the soldiers were trying to prevent,as they would in any country. From a censored distance, we all cheered the victory.
And more to the point, none of these context-free dead people videos, wherever and however they the killing happened, prove that African mercenaries were responsible. Not when many have said so, but not a single one of these attacks, pivotal though they are, has been recorded and shared online.
The Mail was able to negotiate a brief meeting with some of the prisoners, with bearded authorities "worried that if the thousands of people still chanting victory slogans on the seafront were to know of their presence so close there would be a lynch mob." The location seems to be the city's main courthouse, soon to be the NTC government headquarters, and the scene of beheadings of alleged African mercenaries.
The Africans I saw ranged from a 20-year-old to one in his late 40s with a grizzled beard. Most were wearing casual clothes. When they realised I spoke English they burst out in protest.Perhaps not so hard for everyone. That paint trick is pretty good. They probably teach it at mercenary school. Too bad it conflicted with the man who said "we are all construction workers." (I bold and insert that facetiously). They kept to their "cover-stories" until the rebels took them away to avoid poisoning the press with their nonsense. But one of them 'fessed up - to other people being bloodthirsty mercs - and was then pushed before Mr. Pendlebury as a sort of antidote.
‘We did not do anything,’ one told me, before he was silenced. ‘We are all construction workers from Ghana. We harmed no one.’
Another of the accused, a man in green overalls, pointed at the paint on his sleeves and said: ‘This is my job. I do not know how to shoot a gun.’
Abdul Nasser, a 47-year-old, protested: ‘They are lying about us. We were taken from our house at night when we were sleeping.’ Still complaining, they were led away. It was hard to judge their guilt.
Then I was shown a prisoner who was prepared to admit some part in the bloodshed.He really played that perfectly, right down to the Islamist-pandering closing. That's an extremely detailed account, with only a wounding, no death, from his quarter, but tidal waves of evil sworn to around him. Perhaps this is following on some plea deal - rat out the other mercs and be allowed to go home safe in return. "Yes sir, in God's name, that man Mr. Nasser over there was their leader. I saw him splash the petrol all over the soldiers..."
A tough-looking young man in a black corduroy jacket, he would not give me his name, but admitted to being a 27-year-old member of Gaddafi’s presidential militia and having wounded one protester on the evening of February 19.
‘The African mercenaries put guns to our heads and forced us to open fire on the people,’ he claimed. ‘If someone refused then the mercenaries poured petrol over their head and set them alight. I saw this with my own eyes. I had to do what they said.’
The man said he was guarding the gates of the militia base in central Al Berka Square against stone throwing protesters when he shot one man in the leg at a distance of 50 metres.
‘He had stones in his hand,’ he said. ‘When he fell down he pulled himself up and gave the victory sign.’
How many people had he seen killed that night? About 40 members of the militia, executed by the mercenaries, he claimed. And what about the people they were shooting at? ‘More than a hundred,’ he admitted.
He claimed he had deliberately aimed only to wound and had fired over the crowds’ heads when the mercenaries were not present. He had not been able to sleep for the guilt at what he had done.
This was his story. I did not quite believe him.
What did he expect to happen to him now? ‘It is in God’s hands,’ he replied.
And again, we know from credible "protester" sources that loyalists in Benghazi were burning people alive for refusing to obey orders of the "kill protesters and mourners" kind. These five soldiers (be sure to see the second half) suffered that fate at the same "Birka barracks," possibly at the hands of these same afro-mercs young [name not given] presumably swore to in the Benghazi court of free Libya on or around February 25.