On Saturday morning, May 14, in a press conference broadcast on a Libyan satellite t.v. channel, government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim presented strong evidence that a massacre of Libyan religious leaders by NATO was carried out in the oil port of Brega. The press conference was attended by Libyan religious leaders, mainly Muslim but including both Orthodox and Catholic representatives.
According to the charges made by Moussa Ibrahim, on Friday, May 13, over 150 of Libya’s most senior Imams gathered in Brega to hold a peace conference on how to end the fighting in Libya. Brega was chosen for the site because it is the closest government held town to the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi and the Imams planned to send a delegation to Benghazi with a peace proposal following the conference.
Early during the evening of Friday, May 13, NATO forces bombed the conference site, killing at least ten and hospitalizing over 40 Imams. Libyan television showed the site, which was clearly demolished. Moussa Ibrahim described it as the oil industry’s temporary residential complex or guest quarters and later provided the Google Earth coordinates for viewers to confirm the location.
Statements were made by two Imams who had driven through the night from the Brega site to Tripoli for the press conference to condemn the NATO bombing of their brethren.
NATO confirmed attacking Brega that evening but claimed it struck a “command and control center”.
Only BBC World carried a short clip of the press conference which was ignored by all other international news channels who instead focused on a claim made by the Italian foreign minister that Muammar Gaddafi had been wounded in a previous bombing of Tripoli. The Italian minister claimed that he was informed of Gaddafi’s injuries by the Catholic Bishop of Tripoli, a claim that the Catholic Bishop denied making.
It appears that NATO is growing increasingly desperate despite the description of the present military situation on the ground in Libya as a “stalemate”. Libyan government forces continue to tighten their control over most of the south and claim they are regaining control of the eastern oil producing region, which would mean ending any chance of the rebels exporting significant quantities of oil to fund their rebellion.
Libyan government forces, on some accounts, have also regained control of the water pipeline known as the Great Man Made River (GMMR) which supplies Benghazi and its surroundings with almost all of its water from the Nubian aquifer in southern Libya. If the Libyan government is able to cut the water flow from the GMMR to Benghazi it will leave the rebels in the east with only a single reservoir in the town of Ajdabiya to use, which is estimated to only have a one month supply of the amount of water Benghazi needs.
Bombing a peace conference of Libyan religious leaders shows just how much NATO is threatened by any chance of a cease fire. Any break in the NATO air offensive will only benefit the government and hurt the rebellion, with reports from western journalists in Benghazi telling of increasing infighting between local rebels and those recently returned from exile who have been trying to take over. If Benghazi looses its water supply the clock starts ticking towards the day when Benghazi’s rebel fighters must surrender or evacuate the city.
Thomas C. Mountain lives in Asmara, Eritrea. He can be reached at: thomascmountain at yahoo dot com