Indentured Mercenaries


Another disturbing tactic used by Qaddafi's people:

Libyan troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are rounding up black African migrants to force them to fight anti-Gaddafi rebels, Reuters is reporting. The news agency said it had spoken to several young African men who have fled to Tunisia. The men told reporters at the Ras Jdir refugee camp near the Tunisia-Libya border that they were raided in their homes by soldiers, beaten and robbed of their savings and identity papers, then detained and finally offered money to take up arms for the state.

Along the same lines, Babak Dehghanpisheh reports that "that the fear of foreign mercenaries has spurred hysteria among Libyans in the east and led to a series of attacks on dark-skinned Africans who had nothing to do with the violence":

Yusuf Suleiman Hassan, a 25-year-old native of Chad, says he came to Benghazi, in eastern Libya, six months ago to find work. He eventually joined dozens of his countrymen in grueling construction work. When the violent uprisings broke out in Libya last month, he knew it was time to go. "There was a lot of fighting," says Hassan, who's wearing a muddy light blue jacket and brown sandals. "I'm a poor man and I just want to go home."

The Kalashnikov-toting Libyan guards who are now holding Hassan captive don't buy any of it. They insist he's a murtazeqaa mercenary paid by Muammar Gaddafi to attack regime opponents.

The Guardian summaries the latest developments in the war-torn country. Juan Cole lists the "Top Ten Achievements of Mideast Democracy Protests this Weekend".

(Photo: Sudanese men walk to a United Nations displacement camp after crossing into Tunisia from Libya on March 6, 2011 in Ras Jdir, Tunisia. As fighting continues in and around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, tens of thousands of guest workers from Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh and other countries are fleeing to the border of Tunisia to escape the violence. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images)