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Libyan rebels may be killing black workers says AU head

ACCUSED: African migrant workers whom rebels accused of being mercenaries seen detained in the military base in Tripoli

LIBYAN REBELS may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, the chairman of the African Union (AU) has said.

He says the fears are one reason why the AU has not recognised opposition forces as the nation’s interim government.

“NTC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries,” said AU chairman Jean Ping, referring to the rebels’ National Transitional Council. “All blacks are (seen as) mercenaries. If you do that it means that one-third of the population of Libya which is black is also mercenaries. They are killing people, normal workers, mistreating them.”

He added: “Maybe it’s looters, uncontrolled forces. But then the government should say something, condemn this. We want to see a signal that the African workers that are there, they should be evacuated.”

Ping’s comments follow concerns from international rights groups about beatings and detentions of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says that the evidence it has collected so far “strongly suggests that (Moammar Gadhafi’s) government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.”

So far, there have been no specific allegations of atrocities carried out by rebel fighters, though human rights groups are continuing to investigate some unsolved cases.

Reporters for The Associated Press have witnessed several episodes of rebels mistreating detainees or sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being hired Gadhafi guns, including an incident where about a dozen black men were detained and some were punched.


Council spokesman Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga denied Ping’s claims that rebels were responsible for such killings.
“These allegations have been made during the early days of the revolution,” he said. “This never took place.”

He added: “If happened, it will be the Gadhafi forces. Until now, we keep finding mass graves of the newly liberated cities.”

Libyan rebels appear to have secured the capital after a week of fierce fighting with forcesloyal to Gadhafi.

“It is over. The NTC took power ... they won,” Ping said. “And now it is time for both sides to stop all the killing.”

The AU has so far refused to recognise the council, although some of its member states, including Nigeria and Ethiopia, have done so. The United Nations has urged the AU to “encourage Libya’s new leadership” and help unlock billions of dollars in frozen assets that the Libyan rebels say they urgently need.

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