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Claims Libya Africans press-ganged

posted 7 Mar 2011, 07:56 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 Mar 2011, 07:58 ]

African migrants fleeing Libya say government forces are press-ganging Africans into fighting for Gaddafi.

RAS JDER, TUNISIA (MARCH 7, 2011) REUTERS - Libyan troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are rounding up black African migrants to force them to fight anti-Gaddafi rebels, young African men who fled to Tunisia claimed on Monday (7 March).

In separate accounts given at the refugee camp, they said they were raided in their homes by soldiers, beaten and robbed of their savings and identity papers, then detained and finally offered money to take up

arms for the state. Those who refused were told they would never leave, said Fergo Fevomoye, a 23-year-old who crossed the border on Sunday.

"They will give you a gun and train you like a soldier. Then you fight the war of Libya. As I am talking to you now there is

many blacks in training who say they are going to fight this war. They have prized (paid) them with lots of money."

He said Africans who are first intimidated and stripped of everything were then offered 250 Libyan dinars ($200) to train

as fighters.

The Libyan government has denied using foreign nationals to fight the rebels, saying instead that dark-skinned Libyans

serving in its security forces had been mistaken for African mercenaries.

When protests against Gaddafi's government led to violence three weeks ago, rebels spread reports that the Libyan leader had brought in African mercenaries from such states as Chad and Zimbabwe. But the suggestion that trained, uniformed troops were being flown in to help suppress the revolt has not been proven.

The accounts now emerging of how some black migrants are successfully being forced into taking up arms for the Libyan

state may be one explanation of these reports of black fighters. Whatever the truth, Nigerian and Ghanians in this transit

camp all say they were suddenly very afraid to show their faces in the cities of western Libya where they worked, in case they were taken for mercenaries or dragooned by government troops.

Obinna Obielu, an electrician who had worked in Libya for 12 years and said he had saved 10,000 dollars, escaped with his two friends and their wives and two babies in an old Land Cruiser. Obielu said the main road from Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli was too dangerous, and he had driven through the bush close to the frontier.

"I go off, because it is not a good road. Because they are attacking people and sending them back to go and fight in the

war," he said.

Tijanx Sadiki also recounted how he was raided and robbed at home and left with no papers and no money for food, terrified of appearing on the streets, before they decided to risk travelling west to Tunisia.

"They are coming to my house with military, in military uniform. They come with uniform complete army uniform they are four in number and four AK47 they all come they come. They hit my door I refused to open they bust the door. They beat everybody, collect our money collect our phones [garbled]. I knock on my landlord's decided to speak to my landlord he decided to leave the house, inside he don't sleep. That's why I contact one of my Libya friends, I work with him, and I beg him to help to rescue me out and I came from Zwara to Tunis (Tunisia) border," he said.

A baby daughter, Ability, and infant son, Miracle, travelled with the group. Ability needed treatment at the Tunisian Army's

mobile hospital for tear-gas inhalation.

Over 105,000 migrant workers have fled from Libya into Tunisia in the past 10 days, most of them Egyptians but also

including some 20,000 Bangladeshis. The Egyptians have since been repatriated by airlift, after making angry protests about the Cairo government's alleged inaction.

The Bangladeshis and thousands of west Africans remain in the United Nations refugee agency's transit camp, which is being prepared for a possible influx of refugees the agency fears may be trapped inside Libya.