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Africans in Libya fear for lives as rebels hunt for mercenaries

posted 30 Aug 2011, 13:05 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 Aug 2011, 05:26 ]

African migrant workers flee to remote camps in the countryside and by the sea fearing for their lives after rebels accuse them of being mercenaries.

SOUTH OF TRIPOLI, LIBYA (AUGUST 30, 2011) REUTERS - African nationals living in Libya say they are being persecuted by anti-Muammar Gaddafi forces hunting mercenaries.

The ousted Libyan leader employed nationals from different Africans nations as part of a special protection force.

Scores of black men were arrested during the battle for the Gaddafi stronghold of Abu Salim in Tripoli. At least 20 black men were found dead outside Gaddafi's compound after his forces were pushed out of the premises when Libyan rebels captured Tripoli.

Their hands were tied behind their backs and some of them had been shot in the head.

While some migrants were said to be stranded near a seaside resort, according to media reports, others had fled the city.

On the road south out of Tripoli, about 200 people are hiding in a small encampment made of two small outbuildings shielded by a small wall and a metal door.

Most of them come from Nigeria. Others are Ghanaian.

"Many people have weapons now and are attacking each other. Anyone who is black, they attack them thinking they are from the old regime. That is why I am here, I am scared. I feel like there is no where that is safe and that is why I am here," said Ahmed Hussein, who is from Sudan.

They have no food and the water coming out of the outside tap is salty. Some of them fled three months ago after the companies they worked for left the country, evacuated their own nationals and drove the rest away from the fighting without any means of returning home.

But most of them arrived three weeks ago.

One Nigerian worked in Benghazi to the east, another in Misrata, another in Sabah to the south. One was a truck driver, another a car washer and two others construction workers.

One said the Chinese company he worked for evacuated their workers leaving others like him behind.

Now they live in fear. First it was the fighting that drove them out, now its the fear of being picked up and beaten up.

"If you go out in the streets the people will hold you and say you are fighting for Gaddafi. I am not a fighter. That is why I keep myself here with my wife. No money to feed. Please I need your help," said Nigerian Gods Power Wilfred.

"Some people are saying that it's the blacks who worked with the Libyan soldiers to shoot them or whatever but we were not among them. We are from Ghana, Nigeria -- not among (them). We know nothing about that. That is why we are running for our life," said Hassan Abdallah, from Ghana.

Further up the road, on the coastal road to Zawiyah, there are some 800 to 1,000 of these migrant workers. These are even more vulnerable as they have no shelter and sleep under small boats on the beach away from the sun.

Medecins Sans Frontieres are planning to bring medical supplies to the migrants.

One man from Nigerian said Libyans stop them demanding their papers all the time. Because of the fighting he ran away without his belongings.

Too scared to go back, he lost all his papers and now fears rebels might arrest him for it.

Most migrants want to return home. Others say life was very good in Libya until the war broke.

One Nigerian, who did not want to appear on camera, said he had left his country because of the fighting. Now he finds himself in someone else's war and doesn't know where to go.

The African Union said on Monday (August 29) it was concerned about the migrants' plight.