What really happened in Zliten?

BBC The Libyan government has taken correspondents to Zlitan, to see the aftermath of a Nato strike that it says killed 85 civilians. Nato says it hit a military staging base. The BBC’s Matthew Price went along to weigh the competing claims.

A photocopied version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea lay in the rubble. Next to it were school books, their pages fluttering in the light breeze.

A policeman picked through the remains of the house. He slid the door of a refrigerator lying on its back to one side. Inside was a melon, and some bags of beans.

Libya claims that 33 children - some of them of a very young age - were massacred near Zlitan

Nearby a sofa and a bed lay broken and covered in dust. There were other signs of normal life: a teddy bear, a football.

Just around the broken, mangled corner of the building, Mr Mahmoudi was speaking.

“You all saw that 85 Libyan civilians, from several families, were massacred in this location,” he said, standing outside the remains of what was once perhaps a living room.

“Thirty-three of them were children of a very young age,” he continued. “This is ‘Western democracy’.”

Salwa’s story

Salwa, aged 15, says her mother and two sisters were killed in the strike

Salwa, aged 15, says her mother and two sisters were killed in the strike
For Libya’s government, what happened south of Zlitan in the village of Majar is proof that Nato, contrary to its mandate, is not protecting civilians. Officials believe the alliance is engaged in regime change, at whatever cost.

Almost 48 hours after the first strike hit the cluster of buildings in the countryside to the south of Zlitan, Nato said it had completed its assessment of what happened.

It confirmed it had hit the area, targeting four buildings and nine vehicles at the site between 23.33 on Monday and 02.34 on Tuesday.

The times for the strikes correspond with those given by people in the area.

Nato went on: “We monitored this military compound very carefully before striking.”

“Our assessment, based on the level of destruction of the buildings, confirms the likelihood of military and mercenary casualties. The allegation of civilian casualties made by the Gaddafi regime was not corroborated by available factual information at the site.”

Try telling that however to 15 year-old Salwa Jawoo. Her name was on some of the school books at the scene – I found her in Zliten hospital.

Her face was scarred – she had a broken shoulder.

She said she was sitting outside her home when the first missile struck. It was the second one that injured her.

“There was no military camp. We were just living there. Why did they attack us?” she asked.

“My mother died, and my two sisters,” she added, with a sigh. A tear ran down her cheek as she spoke. Her grief was genuine.

So, too, was the sorrow of Ali Mufta Hamed Gavez. His wife – also in the hospital – had her leg amputated after being wounded.

Next door in the mortuary the stench was overwhelming – body bags laid strewn across the floor.

There were about 30. The officials who took international journalists there unzipped perhaps half of them. Inside most were the bodies of young men.

The was little left of some. A foot lay on top of a mess of bloody body parts in one bag. In another, the intestines of the man spilled out.

Shrapnel wounds had lacerated the skin. Many were blackened and covered in dust.

Among the bodies of the men, were also those of two children, and two women.

One child, a two-year-old, bore no visible scars. Its skin was clean.

Important moment

Since the strike, and during the three days of mourning announced for the victims, Libya’s state television has broadcast footage – clearly from the same place – that shows the body of a young child being pulled out of the rubble.

We will likely never know precisely how many died at Majar or who they were.

The front line is not far away. From the site plumes of white smoke can be seen rising from where the fighting is taking place. It would make sense that soldiers would need somewhere to rest in the area.

Most of the bodies in the mortuary were men of fighting age.

The government itself also indicated that the area is a strategic one – it said Nato’s only reason for hitting the site was to “open the southern gate” to the town of Zliten so the rebels could advance and then from there attack Tripoli.

Civilians were injured – and it seems killed. The government says 33 of them were children. But they showed international journalists the bodies of just two.

The Libyan leadership clearly believes this is an important moment.

State television’s reporting of a large-scale loss of life at the hands of Nato will harden the resolve of those who support Col Gaddafi.

There will also be a belief, that global coverage of the Libyan government figures, might perhaps heighten the unease among some Nato member states about where the campaign is going, and how effective it is proving to be.

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14 Responses to What really happened in Zliten?

  1. Richard from France says:

    The Libyan government is the NTC.

    Kaddhaffi and his supporters are a bunch of psychopaths, sadists, rapists and fascists, with NO legal power. The “state television” is a pirate emitter which is known at spreading only lies. The only purpose of all these dirty blokes now is mocking at the nations of the world, with mise en scene like this one.

    So, the simple fact that this journalist still consider that kaddhafi is the government of Libya clearly shows he is ACCOMPLICE, and all the following in his testimony is lies.

    But assuming this description is true, what really happened in Zliten? Did Kaddhafi and his bunch of hazers learned the criteria of credibility used by the western journalists, and made a better mise en scene this time? Or did really NATO mistaken civilians for militaries? or hit a human shield?

    Let us not fall victims of the Stockholm syndrome. Even if such a thing happened, it is kaddhafi and his supporters the responsible, even if NATO hit a human shield, even if they completely mistaken and hit innocent civilians.

    What looks the most likely to me, is that this place was a living place for soldiers, explaining why NATO identified it as a military place. But probably they did not noticed that one of the officers had his family with him… so this family was hit with the other soldiers. This scenario may explain why only a HANDFUL of civilians were hit… For the other soldiers, they just had to remove their military clothes and put them civilian clothes. Am I false? if so, why the journalist was allowed into ONLY ONE HOUSE??? Because the others had guns for teddy bears?

    This case, if proven, may be the first case of a NATO collateral damage. I am very sorry for these people… and also for the men who were forced in being soldiers. But blame kaddhafi and his gang, who created the situation, not the ones who try to help the Libyans, trying not aim legitimate targets between numerous human shields waved before them by the amused psychopaths.


  2. Ben Major says:

    What a confusing mess of an article. There are so many holes in the reporting and poorly edited writing it isn’t possible to take any of it seriously. ANYONE familiar with the well-known and proven Gaddafi tactics of the past four DECADES will understand how tired and insipid this non-crime is. The people killed in the strike were Gaddafi people involved in killing civillians. the two dead babies were killed by Gaddafi forces in their random shellings and murders. The rest are G soldiers and rebels killed in the fighting. You think it’s a coincidence that the school books laying atop the rubble happened to have the name an injured girl who was given as evidence to the global media? If you think it is beyond Gaddafi’s people– from the very top to the very bottom– to quickly destroy homes near the NATO strikes (they were expecting them around there, duh) and then claim the damage was by NATO needs to get a date with reality. In any event, it is perfectly conceivable that some civilians were in the area at the time of the strike and got hurt. It’s not like G people care about civilians. Unless u consider using children as human shields to a be a form of child development.

  3. francesca_fr says:

    I toatlly agree with Ben Major’s remarks.
    The Gaddafi regime has been lying and maniplulating the media for as long as I can remember (quite a while). It seems that the strategy now is to discredit NATO operations and put as much pressure as possible on those supporting Libyans fighting for their freedom, hoping the latter will lose their international support.
    I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to a bona fide journalist, trying to present both sides and sort fact from fiction, but no such to a regime which so routinely uses lies.
    An injured girl is an injured girl, no-one contests that. But anything is possible – her injuries may be the result of something totally unconnected to air strikes, and she would be unlikely to resist if she’s told to give a certain version. who knows what pressure people are under to spout the “official” version of events.

  4. francesca_fr says:

    Following “appearance” of Khamis Gaddafi on TV – who is going to challenge regime to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is alive and well? Otherwise we may be permitted to doubt, based on same past experience.

  5. Marc & Sophia says:

    We are in complete agreement with Richard from France & Ben Major! Gaddafi is a devil snake & he & his thugs are doing everything to discredit NATO!

  6. sarcastical says:

    “This case, if proven, may be the first case of a NATO collateral damage.”
    I know about at least one other proven (two or so months ago, damaged missile went a few miles off course and hit civilian building in Tripolis). Not bad, considering literally tens of thousands of munition deployed so far.

    For me, most hilarious thing is claim that NATO is deliberately targeting civilians. What NATO would gain from it?

    Bilions $ put to development and use of so-called “smart” and “precise” weapons was not for just shit and giggles, but exactly for combating with minimised (not entirely zero, it would be miracle) civilian casultaties, allowing for politically acceptable military operations.

    • Richard from France says:

      Bilions $ put to development and use of so-called “smart” and “precise” weapons was not for just shit and giggles, but exactly for combating with minimised civilian casultaties, allowing for politically acceptable military operations.

      exact. And this just not come from yesterday. This effort is going on since tens of years, where it is more and more obvious that great “WWII” style wars are no longer the main threat, but instead small poorly armed but very mobile and very cunning enemies, like Maddhafi, the talibans, drug traffickers, etc.

  7. The official JANA news agency said people using Thurayas, one of the most easily available portable satellite telephones, without a permit would be charged with collaborating with the enemy, and may face the death penalty.

    “Any citizen who owns a device of the Thuraya brand must carry a permit allowing its use according to the laws and regulations in force,” JANA said.

    would summary judgement dictate an insane cruelty, an excuse to kill enemies real and imagined before he meets his demise………..

  8. Binezi says:

    Do people not get it? Freshly deceased bodies do not smell ! Never mind that many of the bodies were men. Recently the FF fighters have stated that the pro regime fighters are now dragging away their dead bodies. Seems odd Gaddaffi’s crew never seemed to show any respect for even their own. The FF fighters were left to take care and provide proper Islamic burials for the deceased of both sides of the conflict.. I do agree though that Gadaffi would not have any issues with using people as shilelds.There may be some credidibility to the poor girls story. Having said that her tears may be real but there is no doubt that she is now terrified to share what really happened!

  9. benina says:

    http://www.youtube . com/user/MazighieTuber#p/u/3/mV7HGNJ_YSs
    (remove spaces)
    go hear to youtube and listen to daffi prime minister make request for dead children bodies to be filmed by moussa ibrahim.Daffi thugs not so smart

  10. patriot says:

    Killing Libyans and telling the World they didn’t kill civilians.
    For how long will we stand aside and watch?

    Old pirates, yes, they rob I
    Sold I to the merchant ships
    Minutes after they took I
    From the bottomless pit
    But my hand was made strong
    By the hand of the almighty
    We forward in this generation
    Won’t you help to sing
    These songs of freedom?
    ‘Cause all I ever have
    Redemption songs
    Redemption songs
    Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
    None but ourselves can free our minds
    Have no fear for atomic energy
    ‘Cause none of them can stop the time
    How long shall they kill our prophets
    While we stand aside and look? Ooh
    Some say it’s just a part of it
    We’ve got to fullfil the book

    Won’t you help to sing
    These songs of freedom?
    ‘Cause all I ever have
    Redemption songs
    Redemption songs
    Redemption songs
    Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
    None but ourselves can free our mind
    Woh, have no fear for atomic energy
    ‘Cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time
    How long shall they kill our prophets
    While we stand aside and look?
    Yes, some say it’s just a part of it
    We’ve got to fullfill the book
    Won’t you help to sing
    These songs of freedom?
    ‘Cause all I ever had
    Redemption songs
    All I ever had
    Redemption songs
    These songs of freedom
    Songs of freedom

    Bob Marley

  11. 22:29 Reuters Libyan rebels have captured the residential districts of Brega but soldiers loyal to Muammar Gaddafi still hold western parts of the town where the oil facilities are located, a rebel spokesman said on Thursday.

    “It is liberated. It is under our control now,” spokesman Mossa Mahmoud al-Mograbi said of the eastern part of the town.

    Now, Ghaddaffis force have to have an escape route..I would imagine they left a route to Ras Lanouf open…….So I’m sure that the shyytt isn’t mined at this point.What would it ake to flank the muthas through the desert and hold the road to RAS lanouf……..Just like in Zlitan, that forces Gaddaffi forces to come to you, and makes them Nato targets of opportunity….You don’t want to foray and patrol a lot around Brega……that allows the opportunity for intermingling and infiltration…….Dig in and set hard lines just like Zlitan……..He has to counter……….It’s who he is…………..

  12. Richard from France says:

    at a second reading, this can be a full mise en scene.

  13. Richard from France says:

    Sources at a hospital in Ajdabiyah to the northeast said about 50 were wounded on Thursday and Friday and one civilian in the all-but-deserted town was killed when a rocket fired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces hit a house.

    He has the right to target civilians. There will be no reports in “human right organisations”, he will not be reported in Fox News. Bu the Libyan has their least error examined with a magnifying glass, and reported everywhere.

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