The Libyan Rebels We "Saved" From Qaddafi Have Taken to Looting, Burning, and Beating


The New York Times' C.J. Chivers reports that Libyan rebels in the western part of the country have taken to beating Qaddafi loyalists and looting and raiding their villages: 

The looting included many businesses and at least two medical centers that, like the towns, are now deserted and bare.

Rebel fighters also beat people suspected of being loyalists and burned their homes, [Human Rights Watch] said.

Rebel officials in the mountains have played down the looting and arson in recent days. In an interview on Sunday, Col. Mukhtar Farnana, the region's senior commander, said that reprisals were not sanctioned and that he did not know any details about them.

But Human Rights Watch said the same commander shared details with its investigators and conceded that rebels had abused people suspected of being collaborators as towns changed hands.


A rebel near Qawalish on Tuesday confirmed Colonel Farnana's view, saying that the rebels had instructions not to "break anything or burn houses," but that orders ran up against the realities of waging war with a nonprofessional, quasi-military force.

"Before we liberate an area, we do have intelligence information about the people who were helping the army in the local town," said the rebel, Hatam Idris. "So we do know these people, and their homes. And when we liberate a town, we go straightaway to those homes."

The houses often have ammunition or weapons in them, he said, and often are ransacked and burned. "Some people do this individually," he said.

Chivers argues convincingly that Qaddafi's forces are worse, what with bombing civilians and executing prisoners. Then he notes that the rebels have a mixed record of treatment themselves, with some captured Qaddafi troops receiving "medical treatment in rebel hospitals and have been kept in detention centers that nongovernment organizations have been allowed to visit," while others have been beaten and "shot through the feet, either as a punishment or as a means to prevent escape."

I suppose the consolation here is that we are funding the lesser of two evils?