by Sundar J.M. Brown
On Sunday, 20 February, 2011, African mercenaries, flown in by Gadhafi from Chad and armed with heavy artillery and machine guns, attacked a funeral procession as it passed by a government compound in Benghazi. A number of mourners were killed in the confrontation, prompting Benghazi residents to publicly criticize the mercenaries as, “vicious killers”. Locally gathered human intelligence (HUMINT) suggested that many of Benghazi’s residents are paralyzed by fear of the mercenaries, and are taking extreme measures to escape from the city, including several escape attempts that led to a loss of life (the residents attempted to escape from the city by jumping off a local bridge).
HUMINT also suggested that hundreds of African mercenaries are now operating throughout Libya.One mercenary who was captured and taken into custody by local forces revealed, under interrogation, that he was paid $500 a day with an additional $12,000 in promised money for every person he killed. Motivated by that earning potential, the African mercenaries have left hundreds of Libyans dead and wounded. Resultantly, Benghazi regional hospitals have exhausted their equipment, medicine and staff resources, making the performance of both essential and rudimentary medical procedures largely impossible. The death toll statistics have risen significantly in the wake of this lack and the Benghazi hospitals have reported at least 300 people killed, with an unknown number more in need of urgent- but unavailable- medical attention.
The pro-Gadhafi forces in Benghazi were reportedly being led by Gadhafi’s youngest son, Khamis. Meanwhile, Gadhafi Sr. has appeared publicly, declaring, “I created Libya, and I will bring it down!” For the majority of the day, the Benghazi protesters were held at bay by Khamis’s forces. Later in the day, however, the situation on the ground underwent a dramatic change. By the afternoon hours, clear signs began to emerge indicating that the Benghazi demonstrators were gaining the upper hand. Eyewitness accounts reported a Benghazi Army unit refusing orders to fire on an assembly of Benghazi civilians. Upon this refusal, a Tripoli Army unit, sent by Gadhafi to quell the civilian uprising, opened fire on the Benghazi Army unit, killing approximately 150 Benghazi soldiers. An additional 500 members of the Benghazi Army unit were arrested by the Tripoli Army unit, but were later broken out of prison by the Benghazi civilian demonstrators. The Tripoli Army unit then fled the territory and the surviving members of the Benghazi Army unit immediately joined the Benghazi civilians as the newest active members of the anti-Gadhafi protest.
This not only gave the protestors fresh life, but also gave them a distinct combat advantage as they now had access to a surplus of military equipment, including weapons, ammunition, and tanks. By late afternoon, crowds of protesters were convening on Benghazi’s military barracks, where members of the pro-Gadhafi military units, along with a number of paid mercenaries fighing along with them, had sequestered themselves. The local police academy was also stormed and set ablaze.
By evening, Benghazi’s main Gadhafi-government compound was in the hands of the demonstrators. HUMINT reported protest leaders stating, “90% of Benghazi is now in the hands of the revolution” and, “Benghazi is a free city.” Another protestor was quoted as saying, “One minute we were fighting them, and then the next minute the whole thing broke down and the troops were gone. We lost 200, but this is the price of freedom.” By the following day’s early morning hours Benghazi’s main square was filled with celebration and the city had been unofficially renamed, “Free Benghazi”.