07/18/2011, 00.00
LIBYA
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Rebels take Brega as civilians fear retaliation and violence

For the National Transitional Council, it is the greatest victory since the war against Gaddafi began. Human Rights Watch slams rebel violence against civilians. “Our government abandoned us. Foreign media see as Gaddafi supporters,” says an Italian businesswoman in Tripoli. Video shows Libyans protesting against NATO.
Tripoli (AsiaNews) – Benghazi-based rebels took Brega over night. The town, which is 740 km east of Tripoli, is the country’s main oil hub. The National Transitional Council (NTC) called the fall of the city its greatest victory since the war against Gaddafi began. However, doubts remain about rebel intentions. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused them of retaliatory violence against pro-Gaddafi regime civilians.

In a recent report, HRW said rebels looted and torched homes in towns that had fallen under TNC control. In villages south of Tripoli, Gaddafi loyalists were beaten, their houses set on fire.

Tiziana Gamannossi, an Italian businesswoman in Tripoli, told AsiaNews that the rebels’ push is causing fear in the civilian population. “The rebels threatened me and some of my aides at a checkpoint between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica,” she said. “They seize women to get money, forcing men to get out of their cars to bargain.”

In her view, NATO is funding and arming violent groups that lack any training or code of honour. “Gaddafi’s soldiers committed crimes but they did not harm me, letting me to do my job even though the Italian government is involved in military operations.”

For Gamannossi, a war that was launched to defend civilians is absurd. The latter watch powerless as their cities and country are torn down amid the silence of western media.

“These days, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against NATO in Tripoli, Zliten, Ajaylat and Sabha, demanding an end to the air strikes. No newspaper has given such news much importance, calling the protests, demonstrations funded by the regime.”

The businesswoman also complained about the indifference of the Italian government, which left Italian businesses in the war-torn country to fend for themselves after promoting investments in Libya.

“In order avoid the collapse of my company,” Ms Gamannossi, “I’ve had to stay in Tripoli despite the airstrikes. Those who stayed behind to protect their investments and help the population are looked upon suspiciously by foreign journalists who see them as Gaddafi supporters.”

On Friday, the 30-member contact group on Libya, including the United States, China and Russia, met in Istanbul (Turkey). The group formally recognised the TNC as the sole representative of the Libya people. This will give the council access to about US$ 200 billion in Libyan government assets held in foreign banks to fund the rebel advance.
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