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In Libya, African Migrants Say They Face Hostility

Among the foreigners desperate to flee the troubles in Libya are thousands of African migrants from all over the continent. They say they've become targets for Libyans who are enraged that African mercenaries are fighting on behalf of the regime.

Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Among those desperate to flee the troubles in Libya are thousands of African migrants from all over the continent.

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, they say they've become targets for Libyans who are enraged that African mercenaries are fighting on behalf of the regime.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans are employed in Libya's oil industry and in other sectors. They want out, and not just to escape the violence. Samuel, who's from Ghana, told the BBC he's frightened. Samuel is in Benghazi, Libya's second city, which is in the hands of anti-Gadhafi supporters. But it's these Libyans the Ghanaian and other Africans fear.

SAMUEL: Holy God, holy God, holy God. For five weeks now I'm indoors. Everybody's panic, we need help. We need help. Please, we need help. They do not like the blacks, so, please, we need your help.

QUIST-ARCTON: The hostility Samuel describes stems directly from reports that Moammar Gadhafi has mercenary recruits in his security forces from Africa who are indiscriminately killing protesters.

Saad Jabbar, deputy director of the North Africa Center at Cambridge University, is monitoring developments in Libya and confirms Africans have become targets.

Professor SAAD JABBAR (Deputy Director, North Africa Center at Cambridge University): I tell you, these people, because of their skin, they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up. I think it is urgent to do something about it now, otherwise, a genocide against anyone who has black skin and who doesn't speak perfect Arabic.

QUIST-ARCTON: This Turkish oil worker, who's managed to escape from Libya, told the BBC he'd witnessed violence against his African colleagues.

Unidentified Man: (Through translator) We left behind our friends from Chad. We left behind their bodies. We had 70 or 80 people from Chad working for our company. They cut them dead with pruning shears and axes, attacking them, saying you're providing troops for Gadhafi. The Sudanese, the Chadians were massacred. We saw it ourselves.

QUIST-ARCTON: Experts say Gadhafi's hired African fighters probably come from neighboring Chad, Niger, Mali and Sudan, some who've been in Libya for years and other newer recruits. Zimbabwe today denied reports its soldiers were deployed in Libya. Zimbabwe has this week arrested and charged with treason 40 people who'd gathered to watch news footage of Egypt's revolution.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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