Qaddafi kidnap strategy around Misrata


The lifting of the siege of the embattled Libyan city of Misrata has revealed the disappearance of hundreds of people with many of them suspected victims of snatch squads loyal to the Gaddafi regime, relatives and rights workers said yesterday.

A desperate search has begun for "the disappeared", many of whom were reported to have been taken away to regime prisons or killed during some of the fiercest fighting of a three-month rebel uprising that has reduced parts of the city to rubble.

Witness accounts gathered by The Independent and rights groups indicate that there was a systematic attempt to kidnap men from parts of the city.

Sixteen members of one family were captured by troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi when they left their home to inspect a factory that had been destroyed in the fighting, according to their relative Salem, who declined to give his full name for fear of recrimination. "There had been shooting on the road in the morning, it is near the front line but later the rebels told them it was safe," he said. "Suddenly Gaddafi's men appeared waving guns, they rounded them up into pick-up trucks, and took them all away."

After nearly two months of no news, he received word from a man who claimed to have escaped from Tripoli prison. "He told me my family members are there. But up to this day I cannot be sure they will come back.

"If somebody is dead, we consider them martyrs; at least you can bury them and know that they are going to heaven. But to have them taken alive: you don't know if he is being tortured."

The full extent of the missing has only been revealed as the city slowly comes back to life following the ferocious bombardment by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

There is much more.

It is not clear to me why Qaddafi would want so many prisoners. While he might want to deprive the rebels of troops, the people taken were evidently not fighters.

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