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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Libye. Les frappes touchent des civils

by Pierre Barbancey

Libya. Military strikes hit civilians

Translated Monday 11 April 2011, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Our special correspondent in Benghazi witnesses "collateral damage" from coalition bombing. The insurgents appoint a neoliberal Prime Minister.

Benghazi (Libya), special correspondent

The Libyan opposition is struggling, both politically and militarily. In political terms, the National Transitional Council (NTC) – self-proclaimed since its members have been co-opted without the Libyans having their say – seems to be looking more toward those outside the country. It is probably no coincidence that a transitional government was appointed, perhaps on the advice of Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard-Henri Levy, the only ones officially to recognize the CNT. The Cabinet’s first minister, Mahmoud Jibril, was also appointed as envoy to Western governments. A graduate in economics and political science, he taught for several years at the University of Pittsburgh and has always defended neoliberalism.

Mahmoud Jibril, American interests’ key player

From 2007 onwards, with the approval of Muammar Gaddafi, he was head of the National Economic Development Board, the key man for getting US and British interests into the Libyan market. He is also the promoter of the privatization policies undertaken in recent years by Tripoli. Another key department of the Government is Finance. It is headed by Ali Tahrouni, also charged with the hydrocarbon portfolio. He teaches economics and finance at the University of Washington and returned to Libya a month ago, after 35 years abroad. When spokesman for the National Transition Council, Iman Bugaighis, was asked what prompted this appointment, the answer was clear: "He understands the Western mindset".

On the military front, things are not great. The opposition does not strictly speaking have an "army". There’s talk of a thousand men armed and ready for combat. It is really more of a question of willing souls running headlong into Gaddafi troops. This is the case in Ajdabiya, where loyalist forces retreated after the carnage caused by French airstrikes. The rebel military council speaks of 400 deaths, a figure that cannot be verified. What is clear, however, is that these same insurgents have high expectations of the coalition forces, not simply that they "protect civilians." A demand to which France, the USA, the UK and their allies have responded favourably.

On the "front line" 15 kilometers from Ajdabiya

French Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet, described UN Resolution 1973 as having an "extremely broad legal base " allowing "forms of intervention" including shots on the ground, "without deployment on the ground" of ground troops. International coalition fighter-bombers "put pressure on those of Gaddafi’s ground forces that threaten cities" (sic), admits Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber, the coalition’s deputy operational commander, conceding that, yes, this means "the bombing of Libyan troops". Yet, on the "front line" 15km outside Ajdabiya, on the contrary it is the rebels who are harassing loyalist forces. And in Tripoli, coalition bombing of residential areas has affected civilians. During a recovery operation on Monday night of a F-15 pilot, whose plane had crashed east of Benghazi, two American aircraft dropped two 227kg bombs. Eight civilians were wounded.

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