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LIBYA: Tripoli man talks revenge attacks, disarming Kadafi loyalists

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Mohammed, 34, a computer programmer in Libya, talked about his experiences guarding his Tripoli neighborhood in recent days.

Three days ago, he said he armed himself against a possible attack by forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi.

‘Everyone is armed -- people, kids, 11, 12 -- had arms, weapons, AK-47s just to protect themselves and their families,’ he said.

By Wednesday, he said, things had quieted down. ‘We might even in the next few days hand over our weapons to the proper authorities,’ he said.

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At the same time, he said, there was concern about ‘different kind of weapons being in the wrong hands, of kids or people who want to take revenge.’

‘It’s kind of scary when you think about it,’ he said. ‘They could start revenge attacks.’

Though he said he has not seen such attacks, ‘the feeling is there.’

‘What’s going to happen in the next 48 hours? Are people satisfied that they’re safe, they’re secure, they’re happy, here’s the weapons back?’ he said. ‘Hopefully the transitional government, when they move from Benghazi to Tripoli, they will announce that, to hand over your arms. That will give confidence to people that Tripoli is completely out of the control of Kadafi forces and we are here to protect you.’

He said some Kadafi supporters remained in his neighborhood of the capital, holed up in their homes.

‘These past government officials who had blood on their hands were known in certain areas,’ he said.

‘These people know if they walk into the streets, if somebody sees them, recognizes them, they would kill them,’ he said.

He said it was difficult to persuade such people to turn themselves in. Many have multiple homes containing stockpiles of weapons, he said.

‘They just can’t get into their heads that they won’t be harmed, so they return fire,’ he said. ‘I don’t blame them. If they did kill people in the past or abuse them, I don’t blame them for thinking they might be killed.’

In some cases, he said, Kadafi supporters have ‘come to their senses’ and surrendered peacefully.

‘They’ve been treated very well,’ he said, ‘they’ve even been hugged by the people.’

In other cases, he said, ‘thing would just go completely wild.’

‘These people, they know if they surrender it’s either court, death sentence or prison,’ he said.

He said neighbors have been guarding the homes of some of the Kadafi loyalists.

‘There’s a lot of people talking about wanting to have a number to call to give information about locations of wanted men,’ he said. ‘It would be a good next step ... these houses have caches of weapons, AK-47s. We want these weapons going to the authorities.’

He also suggested a buyback program for weapons to encourage people to turn them in once the transitional government is established.

As he was talking, he said his neighborhood was peaceful. He could see about 30 people standing on the sidewalk, talking to one another, walking in the streets and to a nearby mosque.

‘At the same time, they are cautious of any foreign face that enters their neighborhood,’ he said.

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske


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