Posts tagged ‘Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam’

March 27, 2011

In Libya, coffins carry a mystery – Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and aide, had flown to Egypt and resigned


David Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim, Tripoli

March 26, 2011

MORE than 30 coffins were carried to the Martyrs Cemetery on Thursday, escorted by hundreds of flag-waving supporters of Muammar Gaddafi chanting condemnation of what the state media said were civilian casualties of allied air strikes.

But after two hours of noisy cheers – and very little grief – for what state television called ”victims of the crusader-colonialist aggression”, most of the coffins were taken away. Only about a dozen burials took place, and two Western photographers said some smelt of corpses dead for days. There was no way to know who or what was in the others, or what was going through the minds of those who turned up to cheer.

Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya is a country where even a coffin is sometimes a question mark. Four decades of ruthless penalties for dissent – and vast rewards for loyalty – long ago transformed public life into an elaborate theatre, with a heavy curtain between public expression and private opinion. And that curtain has made the conflict a shadowy affair in which it is often hard to tell who is playing what role – from the colonel’s closest associates to the flag-waving crowds in the street.

At rallies in the city’s central Green Square and the colonel’s compound, Western journalists have run into at least three Libyans who had previously attended protests or made anonymous statements against the Gaddafi government.

Some shadows extend even into the Gaddafi family. A week after the uprising began the official Egyptian news agency reported that Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and aide, had flown to Egypt and resigned, ”to protest against the handling of the Libyan crisis”. His associates issued a statement calling for ”a halt to the bloodbath and a return to reason in order to preserve the unity and future of Libya”.

But recently, rebel supporters in Cairo have asserted that his defection was a ruse.

”That was a lie,” said Hany Soufrakis, a rebel organiser in an email. ”He is very active in supporting Gaddafi in Cairo and the region.”

Mr Gaddaf al-Dam could not be reached but Ali Maria, the Libyan ambassador to Egypt and a Gaddafi loyalist, said this week that he too believed Mr Gaddaf al-Dam continued to support the colonel.

In rebel Benghazi, leaders said that phenomenon has complicated their search for Gaddafi loyalists. They started looking for members of his network of civilian supporters known as the ”revolutionary committees”. But plenty of Gaddafi sceptics had also joined these committees in order to gain a visa to study abroad, paperwork to buy a car or various other perks.

Perhaps most discussed of all is the case of Abdel Fattah Younis, Colonel Gaddafi’s former interior minister, in charge of the extralegal detention and torture of untold numbers of dissidents.

General Younis became an early defector to the rebel cause

Then last weekend, state television began reporting that, far from deserting, he had recovered from a sick leave and returned to his job, leaving rebels and journalists wondering which side he had betrayed.

The rebels say he is still working for them. But Ali Tarhouni, a newly appointed minister in the rebels’ shadow government, sounded a little equivocal.

”I’m not sure we have somebody better,” he said.

On Monday, the government said it would bury 28 civilian casualties in the same cemetery. But none of the deaths could be confirmed and 24 graves were left empty. More than half were still empty at the end of Thursday.

Ten British and American journalists who are in Tripoli tried to visit a hospital the same day, but security forces intercepted them and returned them to their hotel. So the contents of the coffins remained a mystery. NEW YORK TIMES

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