Jerry Jackson

Posts Tagged ‘AJDABIYA’

Gadaffi forces lay mines: Human Rights Watch

In Activism, Human Rights, Libya, Society, World News on March 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm


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Muammar Gaddafi‘s forces have laid both antipersonnel and antivehicle mines during the current conflict with armed opposition groups, Human Rights Watch confirmed today.

Libya should immediately stop using antipersonnel mines, which most of the world banned years ago,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Gaddafi’s forces should ensure that mines of every type that already have been laid are cleared as soon as possible to avoid civilian casualties.”

The mines – two dozen antivehicle mines and roughly three dozen antipersonnel mines – were found on the eastern outskirts of Ajdabiya, a town of 100,000 residents that government forces held from March 17 until March 27, 2011.

Abdal Minam al-Shanti, electricity director for Eastern Libya, told Human Rights Watch that his employees discovered the mines around 11 a.m. on March 28, when their truck ran over and detonated two antipersonnel mines laid underneath power pylons about one kilometer from town. The mines destroyed one front tire and one back tire of the truck, but no one was wounded or killed, al-Shanti said.

After detonating the mines, the electrical workers notified local civil defense workers who began searching for more mines in the area, al-Shanti said. In the immediate area where the mines had detonated, a civil defense team found and disarmed 24 antivehicle mines and an estimated 30 to 40 plastic antipersonnel mines, he said.

The mines were found a few yards off the main road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, in an area frequented by civilians in vehicles and on foot, Human Rights Watch said, and thus posed a direct threat to the civilian population. Given the pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area, the mines were clearly laid while government forces were in Ajdabiya, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has photos of the mines found near Ajdabiya, as well as video from the clearance operation.

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Libya is one of 37 nations that has not joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. A total of 156 nations are parties to the treaty, and another two have signed but not yet ratified. The treaty comprehensively bans the use, production, and transfer of all antipersonnel mines, requires destruction of stockpiles within four years and clearance of mined areas within ten years, and calls for assistance to landmine victims. In recent years, the only government forces that have continued to lay antipersonnel mines are Burma’s.

In keeping with the international norm being established by the Mine Ban Treaty, Human Rights Watch condemns any use of antipersonnel mines by any party at any time. While antivehicle mines are not banned by the treaty, such mines are often used in violation of international humanitarian law, notably when they are used indiscriminately or deliberately to target civilians, or when adequate precautions are not taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Prior to the March 28 discovery of the mines near Ajdabiya, Human Rights Watch had confirmed on March 24 that government forces left behind plastic antivehicle mines in the area around Ghar Yunis University in Benghazi during their retreat from the city on March 19. Those mines, which had not been armed and planted, were found by local residents and brought to an arms collection point in downtown Benghazi, where they were inspected by Human Rights Watch. At a military arms depot in Benghazi, a demining expert from the United Nations located 12 warehouses filled with tens of thousands of antivehicle mines.

Rebel forces in Benghazi, now in control of the stockpile of antivehicle mines in the city’s arms depot, told Human Rights Watch that they will not use any type of mines. The pledge was made by Gen. Khalifa Hufter, commander of the rebel forces in Eastern Libya, during a meeting in Benghazi on March 25.

At this point, Human Rights Watch cannot independently confirm media reports that government forces have deployed mines around their stronghold of Sirte, and in the Wadi al-Ahmar area, 80 kilometers east of Sirte, where rebel forces are currently battling government forces.

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Libya has said in the past that it insists on the right to defend its extensive borders with mines. It has also said that it would cost too much to clear mines, as required by the treaty, and criticized the treaty for not requiring those who laid mines in the past to pay for clearance.

Prior to this conflict, Libya is not known to have used antipersonnel mines since its war with Chad ended in 1987. Libya has said that it has never produced or exported mines. According to standard reference works, however, Libya imported antipersonnel mines in the past from the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia.

Libya still has large numbers of uncleared landmines and explosive remnants of war as a result of World War II, as well as conflicts with Egypt (1977) and Chad (1980–1987).

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Air Raids Force Gaddafi Retreat; Rebels Seize The East

In Activism, Human Rights, Libya, Military, Society, World News on March 27, 2011 at 6:57 am


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AJDABIYA, Libya – Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi‘s forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled.

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Ajdabiya’s initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi’s military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war.
In Ajdabiya, drivers honked in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired guns into the air and danced on burned-out tanks that littered the road.
Their hold on the east secure again, the rebels promised to resume their march westward that had been reversed by Gadhafi’s overwhelming firepower.
“Without the planes we couldn’t have done this. Gadhafi’s weapons are at a different level than ours,” said Ahmed Faraj, 38, a rebel fighter from Ajdabiya. “With the help of the planes we are going to push onward to Tripoli, God willing.”
The Gadhafi regime acknowledged the airstrikes had forced its troops to retreat and accused international forces of choosing sides.”This is the objective of the coalition now, it is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces,” Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said in Tripoli. “They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war.”
Ajdabiya’s sudden capture by Gadhafi’s troops on March 15 — and their move toward the rebel capital of Benghazi — gave impetus to the U.N. resolution authorizing international action in Libya, and its return to rebel hands on Saturday came after a week of airstrikes and missiles against the Libyan leader’s military.
Airstrikes Friday on the city’s eastern and western gates forced Gadhafi’s troops into hasty retreat. Inside a building that had served as their makeshift barracks and storage, hastily discarded uniforms were piled in the bathroom and books on Islamic and Greek history and fake pink flowers were scattered on the floor.
Saif Sadawi, a 20-year-old rebel fighter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in his hands, said the city’s eastern gate fell late Friday and the western gate fell at dawn Saturday after airstrikes on both locations.
“All of Ajdabiya is free,” he said.
Rebels swept into the city and hauled away a captured rocket launcher and a dozen boxes of anti-aircraft ammunition, adding to their limited firepower. Later in the day, other rebels drove around and around a traffic circle, jubilantly firing an assortment of weapons in the air — anti-aircraft weapons, AK-47s, RPGs.
Outside the city, Muftah el-Zewi was driving away, his back seat loaded with plastic bags filled with blankets and clothes that he picked up after going to his home in Ajdabiya for the first time in days.
“We went and checked it out, drove around the neighborhood and it looked OK. Hopefully we’ll come back to stay tomorrow,” he said.
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The turnaround is a boost for Obama, who has faced complaints from lawmakers from both parties that he has not sought their input about the U.S. role in the conflict or explained with enough clarity about the American goals and exit strategy. Obama was expected to give a speech to the nation Monday.
“We’re succeeding in our mission,” Obama said in a radio and Internet address. “So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians — innocent men, women and children — have been saved.”
The U.N. Security Council authorized the operation to protect Libyan civilians after Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who demanded that he step down after 42 years in power. The airstrikes have crippled Gadhafi’s forces, but rebel advances have also foundered, and the two sides have been at stalemate in key cities.
Ajdabiya, the gateway to the opposition’s eastern stronghold, and the western city of Misrata have suffered under sieges of more than a week because the rebels lack the heavy weapons to push out Gadhafi’s troops. Residents lack electricity, phone lines and water.
A doctor in Misrata said airstrikes there on Saturday put an end to two days of shelling and sniper fire from Gadhafi’s forces. The city was quiet Saturday afternoon, said the doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety if the city should fall. For now, he said, rebels control the city center, just as they have throughout in Ajdabiya.

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A resident of Zwara, a former rebel stronghold in the west, said the regime has the town firmly in its grip again. He said pro-Gadhafi forces are dragging away people there and in the town of Zawiya who participated in protests that began Feb. 15.
“They have lists of demonstrators and videos and so on and they are seeking them out. We are all staying home and waiting for this to be over,” said the resident, who did not want to be named because he feared for his safety if discovered. He said a friend who helped coordinate checkpoints when the opposition held the city was taken away Friday.
“They came with four or five cars with four people in each one, all of them armed to the teeth with Kalashnikovs. They surrounded the house and took him out,” he said, adding that the whole thing was seen by a common friend.
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He said neighbors now fear each other.
“During the demonstrations, many people contributed to the community, doing anything they could. This shows that the regime has collaborators to give them names. It’s a Big Brother type of show, so they can come in and take whomever they want.”
The government’s grip has even tightened in Tripoli, its seat of power, where almost nightly airstrikes have hammered military bases, missile storage and even Gadhafi’s residential compound.
Rahma, a Libyan-American in the capital, said only about one in 20 stores was open and food supplies were dwindling by the day.
“My own family, we’ve just been staying inside, but we had a friend who went to Friday prayers and they could see people ready to shoot them hiding behind the bushes,” she said. She did not want her surname used, for fear of retaliation. “This is at every mosque, so if they start to protest, they’ll get shot right away.”


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