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Human Rights Watch to Gaddafi Regime: End Indiscriminate Attacks in Western Mountain Towns

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Ali J. (not his real name), also from Zintan, said that before he fled Libya on April 27, he saw damage from what he called "rockets" to a power generator and the electric pumps on the town's main water well. "Troops hit the generators ... and the pumps used for the water well," he said. According to Ali, Libyan government forces hit the power generator and water well in the first half of April, but he did not know the exact date. Zintan has many water wells, Ali said, so the attacks did not cause a water shortage. Ali said he also saw damage to civilian buildings when at least one "rocket" hit approximately 20 meters from his home in the Soug neighborhood in central Zintan around 7 a.m. on April 26. No rebels were active in his neighborhood at the time, he said.

Another refugee from the Belhita neighborhood of Zintan, Aisha B., said that government munitions had hit schools, mosques, and homes not used by rebels in her residential neighbourhood, and that the attacks had killed four civilians several days before she fled on April 27. Aisha did not know the names of the killed civilians, and they may be the relatives of Abdel Wahed T. (mentioned above), who were killed on the evening of April 24. Aisha said that government attacks since about April 21 had hit four mosques - the Al-Khalil, Ali Hdibah, Al-Aswad, and Rahmah mosques - as well as the Al-Khalil school, which Amr F. said was depicted in his cell phone video.

Youssef N. (not his real name) said he lived in central Zintan, and fled the town on April 30 due to the ongoing attacks. He said he saw three houses in residential areas that were damaged by government attacks. The first was a one-story home in the Saig neighborhood, near Zintan's hospital, he said, but the family had fled the day before the attack. According to Youssef, a wall collapsed and crushed the main entrance of the home. The second was another one-story house in the same neighborhood with damage to its garage. The third was a two-story house in the Jihat Soug neighborhood, in which a "rocket" had apparently entered through a second-story window. Youssef did not know if people were in either of the last two houses at the time of the attacks. He did not see the houses at the time of the attack, so could not say whether rebels had been there at the time; however, he said that he never saw rebels fighting from the center of the town, but rather only on the outskirts, defending against possible government advances.

Saad A. (not his real name) said he lived in the Maharig neighborhood of Zintan, and fled to Tunisia on April 28. He said he heard about 20 rockets being launched into his town on April 27, one of which landed approximately 50 meters from his house, hitting an empty house near a dentistry school. Based on observations from walking around his neighborhood in the preceding days, no rebel fighters were in the area of his home at the time of the attack, he said.

More than 20 refugees from the mostly Amazigh-inhabited town of Nalut (population 93,000) told Human Rights Watch that government forces began their attacks to seize control of the town from rebels around April 21 or 22. Since then, several refugees said that government attacks from the outskirts of the town had damaged a mosque and landed in the hospital compound (Mistashfa Nalut al-Markazi), neither of which were being used by rebel forces.

Khaled B. (not his real name) said that in the late afternoon of April 29 he saw several "Grads" fly overhead. He went to see the damage from munitions that hit a water reserve for the Rahma mosque. He said to his knowledge the rebels had never used nor been present in the mosque or the neighborhood.

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Leila P. (not her real name), also from Nalut, told Human Rights Watch, "On Sunday [April 24], at 10:14 p.m., a Grad rocket hit the homes in our neighbourhood (Belhita). The children were horrified, we were shaken up, and the next day early in the morning we left for Tunisia."

Refugees from the mostly Amazigh town of Takut (population approximately 10,000) reported a range of damage to civilian buildings and farms in that town when government forces began to attack rebel forces on April 11 or 12.

Amal N. from Takut, for example, told Human Rights Watch that on April 21 her husband had gone to the Ghasrou mosque with some friends to pray. As they were leaving, rockets hit the mosque, her husband told her. The family fled Takut, she said, when government-fired munitions started landing in her residential neighborhood in mid-April, but her husband stayed behind. Amal had no knowledge of rebels operating in her neighborhood.

International Law
Indiscriminate attacks include those where the attacker does not take all feasible steps to avoid or minimize hitting non-military objectives. Examples of indiscriminate attacks are those that are not directed at a specific military objective or that use weapons that cannot be directed at a specific military objective, such as the Grad rocket. Prohibited indiscriminate attacks include attacks, including by artillery or other means, that treat as a single military objective a number of clearly separate and distinct military objectives located in an area with a concentration of civilians and civilian objects.

For more Human Rights Watch Reporting on Libya, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Beirut, Nadya Khalife (Arabic, English): +961-71-151-766 (mobile); or
In New York, Heba Morayef, (Arabic, English): +1-202-569-4228 (mobile); or
In New York, Janet Walsh (English): +917-519-9086 (mobile); or
In New York, Fred Abrahams (English): +1-212-216-1281; or
In Geneva, Peter Bouckaert (English, French): +41 78 945 9385; or

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"All persons responsible for attacks that amount t... by Vernon Huffman on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 8:40:29 PM
Is this a leading question there Vernon? HWR repor... by Mac McKinney on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 9:04:46 PM