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Sunday March 13, 2011
Reports by Amy ChewPhotos by Kamarul Ariffin
Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi mercenaries are believed to be committing atrocities against rebels, raping captured men before chopping off their hands and feet in the town of Bin Jawad.
According to rebels who escaped Bin Jawad, “a massacre” had occurred in the eastern town where Gaddafi unleashed his African mercenaries and heavy artillery on the rebels.
“Gaddafi’s African mercenaries raped the young men they captured in a mosque before chopping off their hands and feet,” said a 36-year-old rebel who declined to be named.
“I saw it with my own eyes,” he said before breaking down in tears.
He escaped from Bin Jawad last Thursday under a hail of bullets. His pick-up truck bore many bullet holes, including the back of the driver’s seat.
“These young men were raped in front of local Bedouin tribes. It’s a terrible humiliation in our culture. If they survive, it is something they can never ever talk about,” said the rebel.
Bin Jawad is the town that lies just before Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte which the rebels had hoped to conquer before advancing toward the capital Tripoli.
Control for Bin Jawad has see-sawed between the rebels and the government in recent days. It is unclear who is holding the town at the moment.
“There were many mercenaries in Bin Jawad. They were mainly from Nigeria, Mali and Somalia,” said the rebel.
According to him, many dead bodies and the injured were seen on the streets of Bin Jawad.
“The mercenaries would shoot at the bodies on the ground to make sure they are dead before taking them away,” said the rebel.
Many of Gaddafi’s Libyan soldiers have deserted him and joined the opposition forces.
Gaddafi is currently relying heavily on African mercenaries to help him retake cities and town in the east which have fallen to the rebels since the popular uprising began on Feb 15.
In Bin Jawad, rebels said civilians were forced from their homes by the mercenaries who then used the houses as a vantage point to shoot at advancing rebels.
“We retreated from Bin Jawad to prevent further loss of civilian lives,” the rebel said.
In the oil-rich town of Ras Lanuf, Gaddafi’s forces bombarded the area with heavy artillery and bombs from air strikes.
Doctors and rebels have retreated to the nearby town of Brega. It is unclear who controls Ras Lanuf but Gaddafi’s men appear to be having the upper hand.
Ras Lanuf is a three-and-a-half hour’s drive from the rebel capital of Benghazi.
According to the rebels, thousands of people have died in the fighting.
“We estimate some 6,000 people have died – both civilians and the rebels,” said Dr Mohamed Kamal Kablan from the Media Centre.
However, the figure cannot be independently verified. The opposition also claims many more have gone missing.
As the death toll mounts, US President Barack Obama said the world had an obligation to prevent any massacre of civilians in Libya similar to those in Rwanda and Bosnia during the 1990s.
However, Obama did not specify what action the US would take, saying “no option” had been taken off the table and that the US had to balance cost versus benefit as it made decisions.
The opposition repeated their calls for a no-fly zone to stop the mounting death toll.
“We just need a no-fly zone over Libya. We don’t need foreign troops in here,” said Yousef Feituri, a rebel commander fighting on the frontline.
“Three-quarters of Gaddafi’s strength is in the skies. The remaining one quarter is on the ground. We can deal with that and we will prevail,” said Yousef.
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