Geopolitics

Benghazi: The Frontline In The Revolt Against Gaddafi

In the heart of the uprising against the Libyan regime, the death count is still unknown, but the scars are everywhere.

A
A
Cécile Hennion

BENGHAZI - The shots that resound in the night are no longer the echoes of the fierce street battles that set off the uprising against the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The rattle of gunfire is now accompanied by a victorious honking of car horns and cries of joy. "Benghazi is free!" shout the men perched on car roofs, waving their pistols and Kalashnikovs. Like the rest of Cyrenaica, a province adjacent to the Egyptian border, this city of one million inhabitants is no longer held by the Libyan army or police, but by a disparate crowd of workers, teachers, petrochemical engineers, adolescents and soldiers who have swapped uniforms for the traditional keffiyeh headdress, joining the "People's Liberation Army" in Benghazi.

The city walls are riddled with bullets and the hospitals overwhelmed by the number of wounded. The morgues and freshly dug trenches for "the martyrs' bear silent testimony to the terrible violence of the past five days.

In Benghazi, as elsewhere in eastern Libya, portraits of the Colonel have been slashed and thrown to the ground. Police stations and military camps: burned, looted pillaged. The stories of the wounded, doctors and local residents help piece together. But it is a still incomplete picture. How many people have died? Can the rebellious Benghazi retain its victory?

In the intensive care unit of city's main Jala hospital, the daily death toll reads: 20 dead on February 17, another 35 on February 18 and 70 dead on February 19, a decisive day in which the local military camp fell. The next day another 52 died. In total, 177 deaths have been recorded at the Jala hospital. Combined with the bodies at Benghazi Medical Center, some 300 people are believed to have died and thousands injured.

"After Gaddafi's last speech," explains the doctor. "We're preparing for the worst. The patients that can be moved have been evacuated further east. We have received reinforcements, four vehicle loads of medical supplies from Egypt and four American doctors. We're exhausted, upset and depressed."

According to Benghazi's residents, the demonstrations began peacefully. They kicked off initially close to the watchtower-topped Fadhil Puaomar military camp in the center of the city. It was here that the first shots were fired. The following day, a furious crowd carried the bodies of the martyrs back to the camp, marching straight into the line of fire. "Ninety percent of the victims fell with a bullet to the head or chest. The shots were professional, precise and fired to kill," said Dr. Habib.

The doctor goes from bed to bed. Naji Salem Jibril, a small hole in the front, a gaping wound in the neck, was brought in on February 21 and has been declared brain dead. In the neighboring bed, Mounir Majdaat was also shot in the neck. He blinks bewilderedly. At best, he will be a paraplegic. Beside him, 28-year-old Moguch Amr was shot twice in the chest but is expected to survive. Another miracle: Emragaa Fakach Ibrahim, a 25-year-old taxi driver, received two bullets to the head and lost the left half of his face, but he will live.

African mercenaries

Zahra Omar, a 23-year-old Chadian national, who was driving to work near the military camp, was hit above the ear. On Saturday, the crowd remained, caught in the gunfire from the camp and a local police station as well as occasional RPG fire. The surrounding walls riddled with holes appear to confirm these reports, as do the body parts at the Jala morgue. According to local witnesses, it was "African mercenaries' who fought the final battle against a crowd drunk with anger, this time armed with sabres and batons,

According to reports, these mercenaries were flown into the airport of Labrak, some 65 kilometres away from Derna and Benghazi, where the airport runways had been destroyed by the local inhabitants to prevent the arrival of additional troops. A local school at Chahhat, some 250 kilometres from Benghazi, has been converted into a makeshift jail for some 150 prisoners. Many of them injured, lying under blankets, they remain mute in the face of interrogations.

It's hard to imagine 70-year-old Jabar Ahmad as a bloodthirsty mercenary. According to his ID he comes from Sabhab, a city in southern Libya. He explains how he "received a free ticket to Tripoli to demonstrate in support of the Colonel," only to find himself landing in Labrak, to then be transferred by bus to a military camp. Ahmad found himself in the midst of fighting that first pitted the inhabitants against the army, and then the army against itself, tanks loyal to Gaddafi against tanks loyal to the people. He was "so scared" that he hid before being captured and tortured.

Amongst the military, there have been 40 reported deaths. The military camp and its abandoned tanks have become a playground for children. The prisoners have been taken charge of by military members who have defected.

In Benghazi, Dr. Habib's morgue is full. There are a number of bodies that no one has come to claim, including those of large, dark-skinned men. "This one is called, according to his papers, Krown Nicolas Lacnka Wohoin, do not tell me that is a Libyan or Berber name!" says the doctor. This man has a slash across his skull. "These wounds are from a sabre: which is what the people of Benghazi were using on the last day of fighting Sunday," he explains.

Upstairs, a young Egyptian woman, racked by shame and despair, tells how she was woken up on Saturday night by men speaking a foreign language and beaten and raped. "Courage, my sister," says one nurse. "Your honor is safe. You are a martyr of Benghazi, a heroine of the revolution. And unlike many others, you'll be there to see freedom." These are just the first stories from Benghazi.

Read the original article in French

Photo - mshamma

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ