Libyans in Sweden in Qaddafi mercenary claim

"African mercenaries" have been brought in to Libya and are shooting at anyone who tries to go outside, exiled Libyans in Sweden said Tuesday, quoting witnesses back home.

Libyans in Sweden in Qaddafi mercenary claim

“They are African mercenaries bought by Qaddafi. They come from Chad and Nigeria among other places,” Shaban Egale, 50, told AFP, pointing out that “many Libyan soldiers have taken the side of the demonstrators.”

“Those who are shooting are elite soldiers and mercenaries,” insisted Egale, one of around 50 people braving a snowstorm in central Stockholm to protest the violence in Libya during the past week of demonstrations against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s four-decade rule.

Following a day of cut communications on Monday, several other Libyan exiles in Sweden said they had received word from their family and friends in Libya this morning that mercenaries were involved in the brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

“I spoke for a few minutes on the phone with my cousin Yacine in Tripoli this morning. He told me that if people went outside, mercenaries shot at them,” says Joe Twaeih, a 37-year-old Libyan refugee who has been living in Stockholm for nine years.

“They are not Libyans. He knows that because he heard the soldiers speaking French together,” he told AFP as the demonstrators shouted “Down with the dictator!” and “Qaddafi, murderer!” at Sergels Torg square in the heart of Stockholm.

Five young Libyans spent the night in the square as the mercury dropped as low as -20 degrees Celsius to protest the ongoing violence in their home country.

“We will stay here until Qaddafi’s leaves, Insha’Allah!” said Esameddan Ayad, a 26-year-old Libyan student who recently arrived in Sweden, wrapped in a thick blanket.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.