Sunday, September 4, 2011

Libya Update- Rebel Fighters Rounding Up, Detaining Black Migrants; China Circumvents Arms Embargo on Ghdaffi Regime?

Migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa found themselves unable to leave Libya during the 6 month old uprising are now finding themselves in dire straits as the rebel-led interim government takes over.

Rebels who took up arms against Libya's Mummar Ghdaffi have begun arbitrarily rounding up and detaining black migrants from sub-Saharan Africa after taking control of Tripoli from the fugitive dictator. As cities like Benghazi and Ras Lanuf fell to rebels, armed civilians began rounding up black residents- in some cases, beating and robbing then before turning them over as rebel fighters began taking over local government offices.

At the start of the uprising, rumors were circulating that the Ghdaffi regime was hiring mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to aid the regime's security forces in dealing with protesters and rebels. However, many more Africans from countries like Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and neighboring Niger have also worked in civilian jobs throughout much of the Ghdafi regime.
Aladdin Mabrouk, a spokesman for Tripoli's military council, said no one knows how many people have been detained in the city, but he guessed more than 5,000. While no central registry exists, he said neighborhood councils he knows have between 200 and 300 prisoners each.

In February, witnesses reported African fighters shooting at protesters or being captured by anti-Gadhafi forces. Witnesses have described scores of mercenaries being flown in to put down the rebellion, although many of the fighters already were in Libya.

As a result, people with roots in sub-Saharan Africa and black Libyan citizens have been targeted by rebel forces in the messy and confusing fight for control of the country.

In the Khallat al-Firjan neighborhood in south Tripoli, Associated Press reporters saw rebel forces punching a dozen black men before determining they were innocent migrant workers and releasing them.

The Gate of the Sea club near Tripoli's fishing port became a lockup Monday night, when residents rounded up people in the surrounding area.

Guards at the club said they looked for unfamiliar faces, then asked for IDs. Those without papers or whose legal residences were distant cities were marched to the club.

This week, an armed guard stood by a short hallway that led through two metal gates onto a soccer field surrounded by high walls. There was no roof, so the detainees clustered against the wall to get out of the heat.
Even prior to the uprising, Ghdaffi was known to recruit foreign fighters from sub-Saharan Africa

ELSEWHERE: According to recently unearthed documents, Chinese arms companies attempted to circumvent the UN sanctions and sell an estimated $200 million in arms to the waning Ghdaffi regime.
The documents suggest that Beijing and other governments may have played a double game in the Libyan war, claiming neutrality but covertly helping the dictator. The papers do not confirm whether any military assistance was delivered, but senior leaders of the new transitional government in Tripoli say the documents reinforce their suspicions about the recent actions of China, Algeria and South Africa. Those countries may now suffer a disadvantage as Libya’s new rulers divide the spoils from their vast energy resources, and select foreign firms for the country’s reconstruction.

Senior rebel officials confirmed the authenticity of the four-page memo, written in formal style on the green eagle letterhead used by a government department known as the Supply Authority, which deals with procurement. The Globe and Mail found identical letterhead in the Tripoli offices of that department. The memo was discovered in a pile of trash sitting at the curb in a neighbourhood known as Bab Akkarah, where several of Col. Gadhafi’s most loyal supporters had lavish homes.

The document reports in detail about a trip by Col. Gadhafi’s security officials from Tripoli to Beijing. They arrived on July 16, and in the following days they met with officials from three state-controlled weapons manufacturers: China North Industries Corp. (Norinco); the China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp. (CPMIC); and China XinXing Import & Export Corp. The Chinese companies offered the entire contents of their stockpiles for sale, and promised to manufacture more supplies if necessary.

The hosts thanked the Libyans for their discretion, emphasized the need for confidentiality, and recommended delivery via third parties.

“The companies suggest that they make the contracts with either Algeria or South Africa, because those countries previously worked with China,” the memo says.

The Chinese companies also noted that many of the items the Libyan delegation requested were already held in the arsenals of the Algerian military, and could be transported immediately across the border; the Chinese said they could replenish the Algerian stocks afterward. The memo also indicated that Algeria had not yet consented to such an arrangement, and proposed further talks at the branch offices of the Chinese companies in Algiers.

Appendices stapled to the memo, and scattered nearby, show the deadly items under discussion: truck-mounted rocket launchers; fuel-air explosive missiles; and anti-tank missiles, among others. Perhaps most controversially, the Chinese apparently offered Col. Gadhafi’s men the QW-18, a surface-to-air missile small enough for a soldier to carry on his shoulder – roughly similar to a U.S. Stinger, capable of bringing down some military aircraft.
While Algeria reportedly hadn't consented to such a deal, rebels and the interim government remained suspicious after Ghdaffi's wife and three of his children were able to seek asylum in neighboring Algeria.

Towards the beginning of the uprising, Libyan rebels were able to use seized radar equipment at the airport outside of Benghazi to track C-130 and IL-76 cargo planes- some bearing registration codes used by the Algerian military- flying into and out of Ghdaffi loyalist strongholds.

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