Is Libya's Gaddafi turning to foreign mercenaries?

Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:42am GMT

* Repeated reports of foreign fighters attacking protesters

* UN working group says their use looks increasingly likely

* Evidence points to fighters from west, central Africa

By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent

LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the loyalty of his armed forces proving decidedly unreliable, appears to have turned to mercenaries from elsewhere in Africa to support his bloody crackdown.

Witnesses and rights groups have told Reuters and other media repeatedly of foreigners brought in to fight, perhaps veterans of wars and insurgencies elsewhere in Africa -- often from countries with which Gaddafi has built strong links.

A lawyer in Benghazi said on Wednesday a security committee formed by civilians there had arrested 36 mercenaries from Chad, Niger and Sudan hired by Gaddafi's elite Praetorian Guard.

In Egypt, a 21-year-old Libyan student named Saddam said he had seen French-speaking fighters from west and north Africa open fire on protesters before he fled.   Continued...

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