30% of Libya in Hands of Youth Movement

If we begin at the eastern border of Libya with Egypt this morning and move west, we find the country is now divided in two, with the east largely in the hands of dissidents and the West still under the thumb of Qaddafi’s security forces. The border with Egypt is in the hands of the Youth Movement, and the Egyptian government at the Bedouin village of Sallum (pop. 14,000) is allowing the border to remain open, permitting supplies and medicine to flow into the eastern cities. This Egyptian policy is tacit support for the revolt.

Then Tobruk is in dissident hands, with what soldiers there are having joined the revolt and now directing traffic and keeping order for the new, civic leadership. Tobruk, a city of 300,000 (about 5% of Libya’s population), is the last major stop in the east on the way to the Egyptian border.

Libya Coast

Libya Coast

Aljazeera Arabic is showing footage of the Libyan military command in the district of al-Jabal al-Akhdar declaring its allegiance to the protest movement. This Arabic news article confirms that report and gives further details.

Does this news mean that the capital of the district, al-Bayda, has fallen to the Youth Movement? On Tuesday, wire services were reporting that al-Bayda (pop. 200,000) was still in the hands of Qaddafi loyalists, despite fierce fighting between protesters and foreign mercenaries in Qaddafi’s employ. An eyewitness said that the mercenaries had committed a massacre in which 26 were killed in al-Bayda.

(Update: Aljazeera Arabic is reporting at noon Wednesday that al-Bayda and Dirna are now outside the control of Qaddafi forces and that the east of the country is pretty uniformly in rebellion.

Benghazi to the west of al-Bayda has a population of about 700,000, and it has been in the hands of the protesters for several days. Western reporters are beginning to reach Benghazi, with the first having been CNN’s Ben Wedeman. Richard Engel of NBC reports that on his way to Benghazi from Egypt, he saw no signs of Qaddafi loyalists, and says that the military in Benghazi has gone over to the rebels. He says the latter claim control of 30% of the country now. Engel reports live from Benghazi on Tuesday evening:

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At the level of the central government, Qaddafi’s cabinet continued to collapse on Tuesday. He had already lost his minister of justice. He has now lost his Interior Minister, Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, who very publicly resigned from Benghazi and complained that Qaddafi had told him of plans to use fighter jets against the civilians of Benghazi. Hours later reports surfaced that al Abidi had been kidnapped by gangs in Benghazi.

Qaddafi addressed the nation Tuesday in a bizarre and rambling speech that seemed at times little more than a set of brutal threats. He insisted that he was not going to step down. Reuters has video on Qaddafi’s defiant speech:

17 Responses

  1. Has there been any actual evidence of the so called “African mercenaries” presented so far? There are a lot of economic refugees from sub-Saharan Africa in Libya whose lives are probably being made very difficult by the spread of these rumours. Some of the more base allegations including those of black Africans being given carte blanche to rape “white” Libyan women, remind me of the American south. Surely, Prof Cole you can see the importance of not perpetuating these stories if they are baseless – the article you linked to in relation to the massacre of civilians in Al Bayda, makes no mention what so ever of “African mercenaries”. I have relied on your blog as a source of (for lack of a better phrase) informed comment on news from North Africa and the Middle East, but I am struggling to understand why you would allow such a lapse? I don’t mean to be rude, but the problems between sub-Saharan Africans and Arab North Africans are well documented and there has been a lot of xenophobic violence directed at economic migrants in recent times – the perpetuation of these rumours will only make things even more difficult for an already maligned section of the North African community. Those who wish to know more about this situation can do so at: link to tomathon.com

    • To robboinoz,

      Prof. Cole is guilty of no ‘lapse'; in the first place, he has not claimed that the mercenaries committing the Al-Bayda massacre were Africans. In the second place, the fact is that there is very credible eyewitness evidence of African mercenaries being flown in to the country; for example, that given yesterday during an interview by Al Jazeera of a member of the Libyan military who defected and who was on a plane full of these people. Mercenaries are reportedly also being drawn from the Sri Lankan communities.

      • The wire service report Prof Cole linked to made no mention of African mercenaries. Furthermore if you read the article I linked to in my response you will see that the situation in Libya with regards to the so called “black African” population is not as black and white as it is being portrayed. There are darker skinned Libyans descended from sub-Saharan Africans brought to the region as slaves in the past – never mind the other groups who have been given refuge by Libya over the years in support of various liberation movements.

        My concern is that a racist element is being allowed to creep into this issue, especially with the allegations of African mercenaries being ordered to rape women etc (never mind the fact that all Libyans are Africans, by virtue of living in North Africa!). The spread of these stories will no doubt put a lot of people in danger, the vast majority of whom (economic migrants etc)do not have the relative luxury of being rescued by foreign governments.

      • I don’t think Rob meant disrespect , he just has a legitimate concern. There are some dark skin black africans from different African countries that are working in Libya and Some are in security services. He is not saying that these reports could not be true, he is just saying that they are not a hundred percent credible. And I did see a video where black Africans were crammed in a room by the opposition because they are ” black mercenaries” and the prove they showed on this video was their passports. Not that it’s really strange for a mercenary to fight with their passport in his pockets but if only one of them is inicent and has nothing to do with “mercenary” stuff, then it does deserve a doubt because the judiciary system in Libya is not similar to one in the United States, so let us not try them and judge them in the media. Accusing them of raping white Arab women might mean death to them. So let us be patient and hope no inecent gets punished, and that if any was involved of killing civians does.

    • I have a recollection that Qaddafi created a militia with recruits from central African states – Chad, Niger, C.A.R, Sudan etc. I think it was as the time he turned his back on the Arab League and focused on the OAU (now known as the African Unity).

      Maybe the people that the western media are referring to as “mercenaries” are in fact this militia. Much of the western media seems to think that sub-Saharan Africa is everywhere south of the Mediterranean littoral states.

  2. Craig Murray posts the following today [2/23/11]

    Berlusconi’s Cut
    link to craigmurray.org.uk

    A very senior diplomatic source told me yesterday that Berlusconi is frantic lest Gadaffi falls and the channels are revealed by which Berlusconi gets a cut on the huge amounts of Libyan oil and gas lifted to Italy. Just at the moment that would be too much even for Berlusconi to survive.

    This morning I see the Italian foreign minister is warning 300.000 Libyan refugees will fly to Europe if Gadaffi falls – as though there will be none if he stays. I have checked with other diplomatic sources, and they confirm that Italy is using the refugee warning to argue that Europe should back Gadaffi, and not impose sanctions. That point is not coming over in the mainstream media.

    This blog will be back up completely revamped next week. But I thought this snippet was important. If someone wants to repost it somewhere comments are possible…

  3. Have never watched any of his speeches before. Whow. Is he under drugs, something like a functional illiterate or suffering from Alzheimer´s disease – or is he always like that? Ceterum censeo, ahhhh. mmmh. Carthaginem esse, hmm, sort of, hmmm? delendam!!

    What will presumably happen to the guest workers from Bangladesh & other countries who are running the oilfields at the moment? Is it likely they´ll be target of hostilities? If so, is the abandonment of the oilfields a likely scenario?

    • No, he is always like that. This might be considered a short one. He competes with Castro and Shavez for a bottle of tequila. And no, it doesn’t sound as bad in arabic. I heard couple before, not until the end, but this one is an SNL hit.

  4. Here is a video of the black mercenaries, though it is not clear; but there are 10’s more. This was shot in Benghazi in Shamsa Street ( Down town region )

    link to youtube.com

  5. Interesting.

    This Vietnam vet, who was Over There when it started to become clear that the GI’s real enemy was The Brass and the political leaders who kept things going, and saw some of the antics that conscripted soldiers whose indoctrination began to run at odds with the actual real ground truths would pull.

    We heard of guys shooting NCOs and officers who kept sending and taking them on “gung ho” missions of futility and getting them ambushed or blown up by mines or speared by “punji sticks,” again with no possible “mission” but to seek out shootin’ combat (not “pacification” or “bringing democracy”) which is all the troops were good for (and pretty good at, though that was no recommendation then, any more than it is for the GIs doing their thing by “lighting up” the Wogs in Notagainistan, trying to force-fit a ridiculous, incongruous image onto that landscape and its people.)

    I personally am aware of several incidents, one somewhat evocative and resonant even today: I was in an Army aviation unit, and our pilots, commissioned and warrant officers, were commandeering our “Class A” (fresh food) rations and trading them to Air force and Navy units with even better high-end stuff, getting fresh-delivered-via-C-130 steaks and chicken and pork ribs so they could have nightly barbecues while us troops ate ancient nasty canned stuff. That went on for a week or so, until one night 4 or 5 riot gas grenades got tossed in, out of the night.

    Armies are predatory and parasitic. They don’t exist without surplus wealth to raise and arm and feed them. Maybe some of the officers know this, and know they have to keep some modicum of belief and willingness of the polity, not just the fear of gunfire, to survive.

    I wonder how well “discipline” will hold in the world’s various armies. History tells of how imperial armies devolved over and over to bands of mercenaries preying on a waning population in a blasted landscape. It is heartening to me to see evidence that trained soldiers would see the tru nature of their interests, and line up with people whose actions are about moving toward some kind of stability freed from the excesses of greed and demands for ever more of everything from kleptocrats and oligarchs. I wonder how well our huge military bureaucracy, which has maybe 10 or 20 “support” people (and an equally large number of “contractors”) for every combat troop — a large fraction being Reservists and National Guard, with very different provenances.

    As the “Egyptian flu” spreads across the world, bringing more Revulsion Revolutions to auto-kleptocrat-ridden populations, I wonder how the US GIs will act, as push increasingly comes to shove as the greedheads try to make deeper and more permanent the hole they are shoving the rest of us into.

    • Evidence is that some of our generals are welcoming in Christian extremism and extremists as a way to make sure that if things fall apart, our military might will fall the Right way. Check out Mikey Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which keeps track of this strange conspiracy: link to militaryreligiousfreedom.org

      Various generals like the infamous Boykin have indicated that the forces will take action against a president who is too socialistic, a la Francisco Franco. Given that our military is now only 1/3 of 1% of our population, and that a lot of Blacks seem to have left in disgust with Bush’s war, it would not be hard for undereducated, unemployable young fanatics from the heartland to fill up its ranks in preparation for the Boykins to make their move.

      The thing about Weinstein’s revelations about the Air Force Academy that scared me most is that while I grew up in a USAF family, I’ve come to see that the leaders of USAF have the most contempt for civilian life of all the services, because the butchery of civilians is the core of Douhet’s religion of strategic bombing adopted by all the major air forces. So long before I heard of MRFF I suspected that if there was a civil conflict in our country, the Air Force would be the only service willing to slaughter civilian protestors in “enemy” towns like New York and San Francisco.

      • “Seven Days In May,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and I hope they choke on their precious bodily fluids. Yeah, I’m too well aware of the “Christian Air Armada,” though somehow I wonder how it connects up with the notion of Rapture, this idea that these Oathbreakers are likely ready to use the nuclear weapons the rest of us have been suckers enough to pay for on us “consumers.”

    • Along these lines, there is a strained (careful, circumspect) mockery amongst those in the US intelligence community for how a certain type of person is drawn to (successfully) apply for work at Christians-In-Action, over in Langley. The Cohen brothers movie “Burn Before (after?) Reading” recently took a few sly digs at the culture they’ve evolved over the years as well.

      What it gets down to is the attraction of having a belief system and how that empowers righteousness in a certain type of person, who is not terrible hard to find. (Check out taliban.com, likud.com, etc) If you really believe in something, and if you are really committed to it, don’t the ends justify the means? You Betcha…..

  6. Atrocities are taking place in Tripoli there is not doubt and the horror of what is going on is only matched by the ineptness of governments in the West. I hear on BBC World Service that as the stories of airplanes ‘bombing’ citizens cannot be verified it has been discounted as a lie.

    • .
      If there really is bombing going on, bombing of civilians, then the US Air Force will have evidence of that, and President Obama will be briefed on that.
      .

  7. Libya is an African state. When commentators on the Arabic news channels say “African” they mean “black.”

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