Many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa fled Libya when fighting began. Some say they were kidnapped and forced to fight alongside Muammar Gaddafi's forces [Anna Branthwaite/Al Jazeera]
Among the reports of atrocities occurring in Libya are claims from African migrants that they were abducted and forced to fight with Gaddafi's forces.
Nearly all migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, who arrive at the desert refugee camp in Tunisia, have fled in fear of violent reprisals by Libyans who accuse them of being mercenaries. The extent to which Gaddafi's military has used foreign mercenaries, or press-ganged migrants into fighting, remains unclear.
A former Nigerian police officer, who had worked in Libya for eight years as a technician, alleges he was abducted in mid-March at a military checkpoint in Tripoli, along with other men from Ghana, Mali and Niger, before being taken to a military centre.
"There was up to 100 people in the courtyard and military trucks were arriving and leaving with more people. They started beating people, I saw them shoot one Ghanaian in front of me. The atmosphere was very intimidating," he explained. "They put us into a vehicle and we were driven into the desert. I saw an oil refinery, there was evidence of bomb strikes, burnt out vehicles and a strong smell. I think it was Ras Lanouf."
A Ghanaian worker claimed to have been abducted by Libyan military when they stormed his house in Sirte.
"They asked us why we were trying to leave the country and that we must stay to fight for when the Americans come," he explained. "We were taken to a police station and then to an underground hospital which they ordered us to clean."
Reports of foreign mercenaries being shipped into Libya and shooting protesters emerged within the first weeks of the uprising.
"There's certainly evidence that Algeria sent pilots in before the no-fly zone and provided military transporters to move people, possibly mercenaries, maybe even equipment" but it is difficult to get them into the country," explains Jeremy Keenan, a professor specialising in the Maghreb who suggests that between 5,000 and 10,000 mercenaries may have entered Libya during this uprising, but that there is no concrete evidence.
"If you've got a million migrants milling around in Libya, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, all paperless with no ID, I suspect he's using them, not Libyans, as human shields" the key thing is he (Gaddafi) has got them over a barrel, they can't leave," said Keenan. "I think the opposition people, when they bump into anyone fighting against them who is speaking another language and looks black, irrespective of how they got into Gaddafi's hands, they are using the word mercenary. There is a lot of confusion there."
Gaddafi has supported past Tuareg rebellions and allegedly backed
candidates in recent elections in Niger, who may be beholden to support
him. (READ FULL ARTICLE HERE)