In Tripoli, children and teenagers used in the war against Gaddafi
An Italian businesswoman says heavily armed boys as young as nine are walking around the capital with the rebels. A police force is now needed to re-establish security in the streets and prevent revenge attacks between loyalists and rebels. Gaddafi flees with his older sons to the Fezzan, sends wife and daughter to Algeria.
Tripoli (AsiaNews) – “NATO does not care about civilians. A generation has been decimated in the battle for Tripoli. Boys ranging from 9 to 25 fought on the side of the rebels. They now go around heavily armed thinking they have toys,” said Tiziana Gamannossi, an Italian businesswoman who lives in Tripoli. Speaking to AsiaNews, she said, “A police force is now needed to re-establish security in the streets and avoid revenge attacks between loyalists and rebels”.
Rebels and NATO forces continue their move from east and west against Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, and are only 30 kilometres from his stronghold. They also appear to be negotiating with local tribes for the city’s peaceful surrender.
The possibility that Sirte might fall appears to have driven Gaddafi and his sons Saif al-Islam and Saadi to Bani Walid, about 100 kilometres southeast of Tripoli. From there, he might be trying to reach the Fezzan, a region that borders Chad, where local Bedouin tribes have always been his traditional allies.
Gaddafi’s wife Safia, and his daughter Aisha, have crossed instead the border into Algeria. The latter just delivered a baby.
After days of fierce fighting and the danger of a humanitarian catastrophe, things are improving in Tripoli after Gaddafi’s flight, Tiziana Gamannossi said.
“The rebels now control the city. Since yesterday, there are checkpoints every 100 metres,” she explained. “They have been handing out free food and water for the past few days and are trying to help the population.”
Some stores have re-opened but prices have jumped tenfold, she said. “Before the war, a kilo of apples cost 1.5 dinars; now it goes for more than 10.” Still, “people are helping each other, eating together and protecting each other. People with cars give rides to those who are on foot.
Tensions remain high however. There are barricades throughout the city. Some cars are still burning. Many homes have been destroyed. People talk about a manhunt for Gaddafi regime officials.
“Some say that when they are caught they are put into houses that have been turned into makeshift prisons where they will be tried,” the businesswoman explained. “Others are saying they are killed after capture.”
Many African immigrants have fled fearing revenge, afraid they might be confused with mercenaries. “Blacks from sub-Saharan Africa are not in the streets. Many have fled. They are all terrified. When the rebels find them, they take them away. No one knows what happens to them.”
Still, for her it is impossible to take sides. Revenge and criminal acts against civilians are committed by both sides because war was caused by two political factions.
For Gamannossi, trained professionals fought against Gaddafi forces, not ordinary civilians. Once inside Tripoli, they gave weapons to boys and young men, ranging in age from 9 and 25, to kill loyalist troops. “Only now we see some adults side by side these young fighters,” she said.
For her, young people are the main victims of this absurd war, a conflict that could have been avoided. “After the shock of the last few months, people have started to think about the reasons that led to the destruction of Libya. Every day, neighbours and Libyan acquaintances ask me why the West, especially their Italian friends, did not intervene right away to mediate and find a political solution. They wanted help to stop a fight between two factions, not bombs and weapons that caused only death and destruction.” (S.C.)
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