Tuaregs flee Libya, claiming persecution by anti-Qaddafi forces

Over the past days, more than 500 Tuaregs, including women and children, have crossed from Libya to Algeria, claiming they were forced to flee their homes by anti-Qaddafi fighters. The Tuaregs have taken refuge at the Algerian desert town of Debdeb, where they are receiving aid from the Red Crescent. Many fled from the Libyan desert city of Ghadames after it was occupied by anti-Qaddafi forces. Refugees said the fighters wrote “Death to Tuaregs” on the city’s walls, and killed one Tuareg resident. The governments of Mali and Niger meanwhile report that hundreds of former Tuareg rebels who had gone to Libya to fight for Qaddafi are now returning home. Qaddafi backed the Tuareg insurgencies in Mali and Niger in the 1990s, and then recruited former rebels to fight for him when the Libyan revolution broke out. The reports from Ghadames indicate some anti-Qaddafi forces are now taking retribution against Tuaregs indiscriminately. The Tuaregs are the indigenous people of the interior Sahara, their vast and sparsely populated homeland now divided between the nations of Libya, Algeria, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. (France24, Sept. 2; Ennahar Online, Sept. 1; AFP, Aug. 30)

Ghadames happens to be the site of a planned oil development by BP, under a deal signed with the Qaddafi regime, which also includes offshore drilling in the Gulf of Sirte. BP says it hopes to continue with its plans as soon as stiability is restored. ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and the Royal Dutch Shell also had contracts in Libya when the revolution broke out. (Forbes, Aug. 25)

See our last posts on Libya and the Tuareg struggle.

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