Gaddafi recruits “African mercenaries” to quell protests

Scores die in third day of Libya’s anti-Gaddafi protests


Libya recruited hundreds of mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa to help quell a popular uprising that is threatening to unseat veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi after more than 41 years in office, witness told Al Arabiya from the eastern city of Benghazi on Sunday.

The witnesses said protesters in Benghazi caught some "African mercenaries" who spoke French and who admitted that they were ordered by Muammar Gaddafi's son, Khamis Gaddafi, to fire live ammunition at demonstrators.

The witnesses, who refused to be named for security reasons, added that they saw four airplanes carrying "African mercenaries" land in Benina International Airport near the city of Benghazi, the second largest city in the country.

UK-based Libyan website (Libya's generation) reported earlier that a number of airplanes carrying "African mercenaries" had landed in Mitiga military airport, 11 km east of the capital Tripoli, and they were dressed in Libyan army uniform. The website added that some of those "mercenaries" were sent to hot spots in the eastern region were deployed in Tripoli.

Twenty-four people were killed during anti-government protests in the eastern city of Benghazi, a medical source and a newspaper said, after Human Rights Watch reported security forces killed at least 84 people over three days, including 35 in Benghazi on Friday.

Gadhafi's regime has been cracking down on protesters demanding he step down and implement democratic reforms following similar uprisings that led to the ouster of the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

After regime opponents used Facebook to mobilize protests, like in neighboring Egypt, the social networking website was blocked on Saturday and Internet connections were patchy, said Internet users in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Arbor Networks, a US-based tracker of online traffic, said Internet services were cut overnight.

(Compiled by Mustapha Ajbaili)