BEIRUT

Middle East

Sirte fighter indignant at level of city’s destruction

SIRTE, Libya: Ibrahim Alazhry was one of the few residents of Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte to take up arms against Libya’s strongman but has been angered by the ransacking of his city.

“We are not happy about what has been happening in our city. It is the only city that is getting so much destruction,” said the Sirte fighter, armed with a “made-in-China” machinegun.

“I know there is resistance and I am not sad about the buildings because they have to kill the [pro-Gadhafi] snipers with heavy weapons.”

Gadhafi’s diehards have been cornered into a small section of Sirte after a deadly month-long battle. Sirte once had 100,000 inhabitants, almost all of whom have fled, while fierce artillery battles and heavy gunfire have not left one building intact.

For Alazhry, such damage and destruction are unjustified. “Why would you enter houses and loot and shoot them up?” he said.

Alazhry is furious his own house was turned upside down.

“They looked at my pictures, my clothes, my wife’s clothes. They touched my dignity,” said the fighter, adding he was shocked when he saw the condition of his house. Car thefts and looting of appliances or furniture have become commonplace.

The Mediterranean city is seen as strategic as the NTC has said it will not declare Libya fully freed of Gadhafi’s 42-year autocratic rule until his hometown falls.

Before the battle for the city broke out, Alazhry said: “Gadhafi gave us weapons telling us that the rebels were going to kill our families. But I didn’t believe him because I supported this revolution from the beginning.

“But Sirte people are starting to hate this revolution,” he warned, protesting at acts of reprisal against inhabitants seen as Gadhafi supporters.

“I had a green flag outside my house. You had to do that in Sirte otherwise your neighbors would start asking questions, doubting your loyalty and you could have problems. So you put the flag to protect your family,” he explained.

Alazhry said the “culprits” were mainly revenge-seeking fighters from Misrata, a town which itself endured a long siege and relentless shelling by pro-Gadhafi forces.

“They are making the same mistake that Gadhafi made: he focused on building his revolution instead of building his country,” he said.  

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 20, 2011, on page 8.

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