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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Attack on the Peace Drive

June 3, 2011
Last Update June 18

This is post is dedicated to a reported event I've never heard of outside of a Libyan government press conference by Moussa Ibrahim. That alone would cause most people to give up considering it any further. But I'm not most people.

The video in question is on Youtube, entitled Peace drive kidnapping of two women by armed group attacking convoy 30 3 2011. And strangely, after calling it undated, I just now noticed, at the end of the long title, a date! March 30. Oops. The main subject Mr. Ibrahim tried to keep it to was a reported kidnapping (as well as at least one killing) that resulted from a "peace drive" of loyalist civilians, hoping to open talks with the rebels in Benghazi. The accompanying text:
Dr Moussa Ibrahim on what happened to the peace caravan 100km east of Sirte, where two Libyan women were kidnapped by armed rebels. This peace drive was called for and organised by the Libyan tribes, not by the government.
The Western press was distrustful, and clearly trying hard, right then and there, to spin the news back against the government. After the fact, I have yet to see if anyone wrote anything about it. I was following the news close enough then I'd be surprised if I totally missed it. But then, I missed that date ...

All of the video above is also included in this video I just made based on it, with info, questions, and opinions inserted. (page link)

Further Information
I could find little, using different search word variations. (but then, I didn't even know the date to help narrow things down). I could before find only one reference, dated March 31, to a since-deleted Youtube video of "The Libyan rebels opening fire on a peace caravan of women, children, and the elderly." Url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtmL60oHXtU. So I did have the date, just couldn't see the video.

At my video posting, I asked for more information, and got some quickly, from Youtube member "Anti-Nazi Hippy"

The attack link is the same dead end I found. But the aftermath video, via user "Rayyisse," works and is interesting (I saved a copy).

It's dated April 7 (stamped later, not necessarily the date it was filmed), and shows Libyan soldiers posing at the scene of a mysterious incident or incidents. Two tour busses are left abandoned, tires flat, windshields shattered, marked with spray-painted Arabic graffiti. Only at the very end is a third bus shown, apparently gutted by fire to boot.

In the middle span is shown quite a number of destroyed or abandoned tanks at the same scene, some just yards away from the busses, others scattered across the desert nearby. It looks like around a dozen. Some are still on fire, or on fire again. Others are charred, seemingly flattened a bit, some with turrets blown off and laying nearby. I thought it looked like a NATO air strike where, one presumes, the tanks came to rescue the besieged caravan only to be bombed for coming too near to rebel positions.

Except ... a couple at least are painted with the rebel/monarchist flag, which the soldiers kick and spit at. Another with a flag on its turret is shown pouring flames. Are these rebel tanks that had come to meet the peace caravan? Managed to kill a few and take some captives before being partly destroyed by the nearby army?

The Attack Video -
Searching for the text, I found this:
Libyans in the west decided to settle the matter with peaceful negotiations with armed rebels from the east. They formed a convoy consisting of hundreds of people, mostly women, children and elderly people. They went to the east of Libya, t...
And at that page, an existing posting of what I presume to be the attack video:

And at the same link is included a version with English subtitles, and commentary, added:

I cannot verify if it's the same, but I'd guess so, and made sure to save a copy of each. Off the bat, it's not completely convincing. Perhaps the subtitles version threw me off.
"We want peace," "These rebels are dangerous! Damn them!" "Ooh, here comes the soldiers! These are the Gaddafi soldiers coming to save us!" etc. Possibly genuine, possibly scripted.

It shows the view from one woman's vantage point, as she runs, shrieking, towards a larger group of people milling around a line of at leas six tour busses. The hills here are covered with tiny flowers, not the sandy desert the tanks were filmed in (although it's conceivable the two spots are very close). There is gunfire and light explosions heard, but it sounds like a nearby battle.  The other people visible - barely, as the camera flies around - do not seem to be running or taking cover like the camerwoman is. Only she seems so agitated, fearing for her life, and prominently clutching a white cloth of surrender in her right hand as she runs towards the others, who seem much safer a hundred yards away. Along the way, she helps an old man said in the subtitles to be injured. But judging how he easily stands right up when she offers her hand, it seems more like he was just tired. The one with translation has the man off-screen talking to her halfway through saying the government was telling them they were in danger and had to flee. She seemed to already know that, but the others don't really. It's strange.

I have previously done some critiques of what I suspect are fake propaganda videos by Libyan rebels. I may finally have a contender here from the government side. I intend to see about learning more, however, to see if my skepticism is just in overdrive here. I'll report back what I learn and decide, sometime later now. Just this took too long.
Update June 18: After explaining how I wasn't going to do any new research, I just did some but will only explain it briefly: The above aftermath video was probably, instead, this, dated (as the video is) April 7, Ajdabiya:
Rebel fighters claimed NATO airstrikes blasted their forces Thursday in another apparent mistake ... […]
A rebel commander, Ayman Abdul-Karim, said he saw airstrikes hit tanks and a rebel convoy, which included a passenger bus carrying fighters toward Brega. He and other rebels described dozens killed or wounded, but a precise casualty toll was not immediately known.
This video shows three busses, not one, but otherwise it's a better match with what's shown.

And at about the same time, a better match for the peace drive bus - Sky News, video, 100 miles east of Sirte, March 29:
“This is the road to Sirte. We’re about 100 miles from Gaddafi’s home town and the rebels’ advance has been badly blocked by some heavy fighting about five miles down the road. We’ve seen at least three bodies come back, but for the rest, the rebels are simply parked off and waiting for the coalition to do their job for them with air strikes.” 
“Fear and bad intelligence paralyze the rebels. The movemement of a coach was enough to cause panic. I saw this bus come across the front line. In it were 30 or 40 young men, fighting age males."
How he knew the passenger makeup is unclear, but a dark blue tour bus is shown driving towards the camera. It has an escort of a few pickup trucks, one with a very large gun pointing straight up. Later, standing by the abandoned coach, he said:
"Now, the rebels feared that they might be infiltrators sent by Gaddafi to sow mayhem and chaos behind their lines. The wheels were shot out, and the bus itself has been shot up. But there’s no evidence of blood inside it. What we don’t know is what happened to the young men."
And for what it's worth, I blew portions of a couple of nights trying to stabilize that attack video, which is clearly a different scene from the one Sky showed. This is about the best I could do, and better than I meant to. The gunfire sounds realistic, and we have confirmation a dark blue coach, like the five seen here, was peppered with gunshots.

There is at least one other person besides the camera woman waving a white flag, and a few sort of jogging towards the top of the hill, plus the man telling them to flee (back to the busses, or away from them?). All this suggests if the scene is partially staged, there are a few people at least in on it.

Did they stop and get out upon being attacked, or was it a surprise as many were scattered out on some pit stop? The trucks are there pretty much the whole time the busses are visible. SOrry the volume's a little high - turn your stuff down before starting it. I was trying to just boost the battle and background sounds.


  1. This Al Arabiya video describes the discovery of a mass grave in Umm el Ghindel.

    Libya: Mass Grave and Landmines Found
    Uploaded by AlArabiya on Sep 4, 2011

    Umm el Ghindel is a wadi located 100km east of Sirte, just east of Marsa al Uwayja:

  2. Thanks for bringing that here. I'm not sure how to deal with this, but I suspect a dedicated post for the mass grave, details and lack thereof, is in order, plus an inclusion in the post of the possibilities it raises.

  3. Panoramio has two photos labeled "Om Alggendil" (Umm el Ghindel). This photo of a gas station shows street lights similar to the one seen on the "Peace Drive Attack" video at 1:10.

    The uneven ground hints that the attack video may be from inside the wadi itself. The wadi could also have been a rebel defensive line.

    At 0:14 the attack video shows a tower in the background. This could be the same telecommunications link tower seen on the Al Arabiya video behind the excavator at 0:08-0:10.

    I think the discussion of the grave video should be kept here. I believe this is the same location, if not the same people. Besides, the bodies alone, as seen on the video, do not yet add up to a massacre.

  4. A Chinese news station, NTDT uploaded a video,significantly on 30 March, of rebel held positions on a road, with the location Umm El Ghindel mixed up among the Chinese text, but no significant features to identify the footage.
    Those bodies looked dumped though in September, and the provenance is suspicious.

  5. From The Guardian 31 August...
    Libyan opposition fighters advance to Umm el Ghindel.......amid reports that anti-Gaddafi fighters have been threatening black Libyans and foreigners

  6. @felix – Re: NTDT video Libya's request for more troops supporting rebel from 30 March. No street lights as in "Om Alggendil." There are trees, so this must be in a wadi (umm). Other features include a fence (0:31, should be visible in satellite images from different grazing patterns) and several views of the 440kV trans-Libya power line (0:19, 0:29).

    Different sections of the same footage are used in this second video from the same day: Sirte, Libya rebels advance second setback. Note again the power line at 0:49.

  7. I now realize the original video "Rebels attacked a convoy reunion OMG !!! LIBYA" is of higher quality than Adam's stabilized version. I downloaded the .mp4 file. MediaInfo gives a timestamp of UTC 2011-03-29 19:19:01.

    I extracted the individual frames of the video using ffmpeg with the command ffmpeg -i XXX.mp4 -f image2 frame-%05d.png.

    I can see three different types of pillars: streetlights and 15kV distribution poles similar to those in the Om Alggendil photos. There is also a 440kV trans-Libya pylon right behind the 15kV pole in the background. In frame 458 I see what could be the radio transmission tower / mobile phone base station seen in the gravesite video. There are some buildings in the background at around 1:07 that could be Umm El Ghindel or Marsa al Uwayja.

    The NTDT videos are from the same date March 29th or 30th. It would mean that these are views of the same front line from two different sides. I wonder why the rebels are retreating, if all they are faced with is a peace convoy?

  8. The coastal power line running across Libya is in fact only 220kV. In Umm el Ghindel it is located 1.5km south of the coastal highway. The pylons are located 500m apart. The line should help in locating some of the imagery.

  9. @Petri
    I notice that the Wadi fighting footage appears in the Daily Telegraph video,uploaded 29 March, for Nawfaniyah, east of Umm el Ghindel, implying they never made it.
    There is further CCTV Chinese footage here of Nawfaniyah
    Al Jazeera shows rebels retreating in a hurry under fire on 29 March from Bin Jawed, even further east.

  10. Again, I don't quite know where to file this, (looking unsuccessfully for arabic transliteration of Ghindel) I came across the nearby town of Wadi Harawah - وادي هراوة between Ghindel and Sirte, discovering this mini massacre : معركه هراوه يوم الخميس 8-9-2011 وقتل مرتزقه القذافي , uploaded 12 September by manony4659. (relates to 8 September)
    Some interesting plane crash/helicopter footage uploaded from March too.
    BBC uploaded footage relating to one funeral in Harawah the next day.

  11. The Rayyisse video from April 7, 2011 is not from the same site, there are no street lights.

    In fact, it most likely shows the results of a NATO airstrike on rebel tanks near Ajdabiya on April 7th:
    Libyan rebels near Ajdabiya 'killed in Nato air strike'

    The video shows at least four destroyed T-72 tanks and a dozen other pieces of heavy armor. It is unlikely the Libyan army could have caused this much damage in this NATO kill zone.

  12. The infamous convoy Gaddafi sent to Benghazi to "slaughter his own people" were civilians.

    AlQaeda ambushed them.


    قفلة لم شمله في طريقها الي بنغازي

  13. felixDecember 26, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I notice that the Wadi fighting footage appears in the Daily Telegraph video,uploaded 29 March,
    for Nawfaniyah,
    east of Umm el Ghindel, implying they never made it.


    Sirte, 11 May 2012:

    A grave containing the remains of seven people found in the Um Al-Qindeel area between Sirte and Bin Jawad.

    It is understood that men from a militia calling itself
    the Nufaliyah Brigade of Gulf Martyrs discovered the grave on Wednesday evening.

  14. On July 24, 2011 a peaceful unity march from Al-Sabaa was ambushed and attacked in Gwaleesh by Transitional Council forces with the support of NATO.

    Sniper rifles, specifically FN Belgian rifles, and anti-aircraft weapons were used.

    Three activists were killed and seventy injured. Volunteer fighters from Al-Sabaa came to their rescue and fought against Transitional Council forces.



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