Libyans Flee to Egypt, Release Evidence of Crimes

Al Masry Al Youm has posted an update from Libya delivered via Egypt, since Libya’s Internet access has been cut.

Suleiman Saghir, a Libyan who made it to Egypt’s Marsa Matrouh through Salloum, described the current events back home as “atrocious and unimaginable.” He said hunderds of Libyans have sought refuge in Egypt since the violence erupted.

Saghir added that some eyewitnesses of the developments in Libya fled to Egypt so their voices can reach Arab and world media outlets. Some photographs and video clips brought across the border show Libyan authorities committing crimes against unarmed women and the elderly, he said.

Several news outlets are reporting hundreds of Libyans dead from fighting with the government and hundreds more fleeing through Egypt’s Salloum border terminal, which recently was destabilized by violent protests.

On 28 January, now known as the “Day of Anger,” bloody clashes took place in the city that resulted in the burning of all police stations, the state security headquarters, and three buses.

The clashes led to the injury of 13 police officers.

Salloum is the north-west corner of Egypt, bordered by Libya and the Mediterranean coast, only 150 miles west of Marsa Matrouh on a modern highway. I suppose there is a touch of irony to these developments. Libya used to criticize Egypt for restriction of trade and movement from Egypt through Salloum and demanded the border be more open. Now that the government has lost its grip over the border post the Libyans not only can more easily escape to Marsa Matrouh and bring goods home but Egypt can increase its export of revolution to Libya.

In related news, the Libyan military seems to be making emergency flights to Malta, about 600 miles northwest.

Two Libyan fighter jets with four military personnel on board who said they had escaped Benghazi air base after it was taken over by protesters landed in Malta on Monday, military sources told AFP.

Two civilian helicopters also landed on the Mediterranean island around the same time, carrying seven people who said they were French nationals working on oil rigs near Benghazi, although only one had a passport, the sources said.

The helicopters were given permission to land in Malta but had not been given clearance to leave Libya, indicating that they had escaped, they added.

Malta has had friendly intelligence relations with Libya, so it is little surprise military pilots would head there. It reminds me that Maltese Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici (given prior notice by Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi) in 1986 sent advance warning to Libya to try and foil Ronald Reagan’s plan to assassinate Qaddafi. He sounded the alarm when some of the 100 US military aircraft used in Operation El Dorado Canyon flew over water towards Libya (France, Spain and Italy had refused airspace).

The warnings were of little help to stop the attack due to incompetence in the Libyan military and technology like the F-111F’s terrain-mapping radar and laser-guided weapons (Pave Tack) that allowed for high-speed low level standoff attacks even at night. However, Qaddafi was able to run and hide to survive, which is probably what he is doing again now.

Updated to add: Reuters and the BBC say the Libyan jet pilots, both colonels, defected after they were ordered to bomb civilians.

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