Gaddafi loyalists 'capture' 17 mercenaries

2011-09-19 13:00

Benghazi/Bani Walid - Fugitive ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists said on Monday they had captured 17 mercenaries - some British and French - in what would amount to a sharp setback for the country's new rulers and their international backers.

The claim by Gaddafi spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim could not be verified but comes at a time when the new authorities are facing stark reversals on the battlefield and in the political arena.

One month after Gaddafi was driven from power, his loyalists have beaten back repeated assaults by National Transitional Council forces at the town of Bani Walid and defied attempts to seize Gaddafi's home city of Sirte. The failed attempts to seize pro-Gaddafi bastions have sent NTC fighters fleeing in disarray.

The NTC, still based in the eastern city of Benghazi, has faced questions about whether it can unify a country deeply divided on tribal and local lines. A long-promised attempt to set up a more inclusive interim government fell apart overnight.

"A group was captured in Bani Walid consisting of 17 mercenaries. They are technical experts and they include consultative officers," Gaddafi spokesperson Ibrahim said on Syria-based Arrai television, which has backed the ousted leader.

"Most of them are French, one of them is from an Asian country that has not been identified, two English people and one Qatari."

Special forces

The French foreign ministry said it had no information about the report. The British foreign ministry said it was aware of media reports about the capture of mercenaries but was not able to substantiate them. Qatari officials were not immediately available for comment.

Nato, which is staging air strikes on Gaddafi loyalist positions, says it has no troops on the ground in Libya. However, Western nations have sent special forces in the past, and media have reported that private security firms have aided anti-Gaddafi forces in training, targeting and with leadership.

The interim government's attempts to seize Bani Walid, 150km southeast of Tripoli have become a debacle, with forces repeatedly surging into the town only to be driven out by its pro-Gaddafi defenders.

On Monday, NTC forces were unable to approach the northern gate to attack the town because of heavy gunfire from Gaddafi loyalists.

Fighters said on Sunday that they had planned for tanks and pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to lead an attack, but foot soldiers had instead piled in first, only to be driven out.

"There is a lack of organisation so far. Infantry men are running in all directions," said Zakaria Tuham, a senior fighter with a Tripoli-based unit.

Some fighters openly disobeyed orders. In one incident, an officer from Bani Walid was heckled by troops from Tripoli after he tried to order them to stop randomly shooting in the air as they celebrated seizing a mortar from Gaddafi forces.


NTC forces and Nato warplanes also attacked Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace. Fighters launched rockets from the city's southern entrance and traded fire with Gaddafi loyalists holed up in a conference centre.

"The situation is very dangerous. There are so many snipers and all the types of weapons you can imagine," said fighter Mohamed Abdullah as rockets whooshed through the air and black smoke rose above the city.

As in many episodes during Libya's conflict, the front lines at Sirte and Bani Walid have moved back and forth, with shows of bravado crumbling in the reality of battle.

In Benghazi, interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril failed to name a new cabinet when his proposals did not receive full backing from all current members.

"We have agreed on a number of portfolios. We still have more portfolios to be discussed," Jibril told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

A list of the approved ministries was not available, though sources familiar with the negotiations said that the position of Jibril himself was a sticking point during the talks.

There was also disagreement about whether it was necessary to form a transitional government before declaring Libya "liberated", which NTC officials say can only happen when remaining Gaddafi loyalists are defeated.

  • Muenda - 2011-09-19 13:49

    This is going to be quite a ride for the colonizers. War Mongers....

      Win14 - 2011-09-19 15:11

      I agree. I don't like Gaddafi at all, but neither do I like a lot of other (mostly rightfully elected) world leaders -- yet how and why Nato have usurped the right to interfere and bombard Libya is truly beyond my understanding. Nobody seems to know the pro&con ratio of the Libyan people, so the West's assuumption that more of them want Gaddafi toppled is a purely arbitrary one. Control over ever more oil appears to be the only true motive.

      Succubus - 2011-09-19 15:13

      Aren't the 'colonizers', actually Libyan citizens (the majority there of), who simply wish for democracy, and freedom from the rule of a dictator?

      slg - 2011-09-19 15:48

      You've obviously missed the whole point of what has happened in Libya, and in Egypt and Tunisia.

  • Ingie - 2011-09-19 13:54


  • Aaron Gumede - 2011-09-19 13:58

    The same Britain and France will be sending their fighter planes very soon to go bombed Gadaffi support while AU and UN stand with their fingers in their ar*** and watched.

  • za101 - 2011-09-19 14:00

    you cant believe anything that Moussa Ebrahim says. After I saw that this story attributed to him, I scrolled down and wrote this comment.

      world-weary - 2011-09-19 14:57

      :) yup heard he was dead then - then he wasn't then he was dead again then he wasn't again..... cant trust a zombie...

  • Johan - 2011-09-19 14:15

    Precisely how the continued bombing of Sirte en Bani Walid falls under the UN mandate is entirely beyond me.

      slg - 2011-09-19 15:49

      Get your facts straight. Nato is not bombing Sirte and Bani Walid. It is bombing Gadhafi's military resources, where possible. This is entirely within the mandate of UN Resolution 1973.

      Aijaman - 2011-09-19 16:49

      Bani Walid did not have any problems till NTC went there to bomb them..Now why the NATO cannot help the civilians of those two towns from the bombardment of the NTC. Instead NATO is supporting NTC who started the fight in Bani Walid and Sirte...

      slg - 2011-09-19 20:42

      Aijaman, only a handful of people believe the lies you're telling. Everyone in their right mind knows the brutal dictator Gadhafi chose this fight, unlike Bin Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt.

  • Malcop - 2011-09-19 14:40

    This is a war started by NATO forces. Torture the mercenaries, get their stories for the whole world to hear, and then execute them.

      daaivark - 2011-09-19 14:58

      And you win the 2011 Humanity award!

      Succubus - 2011-09-19 15:19

      Um, didn't the Libyan people 'start' the war after getting tired of being dictated to? Didn't NATO then offer assistance to the rebels, only 'after' Gaddafi fired at protesters with live ammunition, and dropped bombs on the rebels, who happen to be citizens of Lybia?

      Aijaman - 2011-09-19 16:50

      Spot on Malcop

      aman - 2011-09-19 17:42

      Nothing new for Gaddafi - certainly the right psychopath for the job.

      slg - 2011-09-19 20:44

      Where were you at the start of the war? Did you miss Gadhafi ranting from his balcony and killing anyone who wanted nothing more than the right to vote and live from oppression. Were you and Aijaman together somewhere deep in the ocean, or on the moon perhaps.

      Libertador - 2011-09-19 22:29

      Aman, how's your re-education progressing? Remember that the obstacles of cognitive dissonance are natural.

      aman - 2011-09-20 07:56

      Libertador. I see you never miss an opportunity.

  • daaivark - 2011-09-19 15:21

    WHo knows what really went down or is going down. It's war. Everyone involved lies.

  • slg - 2011-09-19 15:47

    Anyone who believes Moussa Ibrahim and Moamar Gadhafi without verification is seriously jumping to conclusions, the wrong conclusions. Plus, News24, it is poor and cheap journalism to suggest that the NTC is facing "stark reversals on the battleground and in the political arena".

      Aijaman - 2011-09-19 16:51

      Then tell us the truth with verification.U can't lammbast and offer nothing.Tell us the truth if you know better.

      slg - 2011-09-19 20:45

      The verification will come. The Information Age has denied the brutal dictator Gadhafi and his apprentice sons the power to obfuscate. Thankfully so.

  • Libertador - 2011-09-19 22:56


      aman - 2011-09-20 08:03

      Do you mean that literally? If yes, just out of curiosity, would you kill me just by the fact that I am white or by the fact that I disagree with you on these issues?

      Libertador - 2011-09-20 09:03

      The word umthakathi is relative, it's like "shoot the boer".

      aman - 2011-09-20 09:24

      Literally it means "Kill the whites".

  • Libertador - 2011-09-20 09:06

    If a black Libyan defends his country he is now define as a "mercenary"? If a Saudi or an Egyptian or Qatari is paid to overthrown the Government in Libya he is a "freedom fighter"? What should we call French and British individuals captured yesterday attacking Bani Walid?

      aman - 2011-09-20 09:27

      Generally I would call neither of them mercenaries. If they were applying there "trade" to a foreign power - not their own - I would call them mercenaries.

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