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Gaddafi used refugees as 'human bombs'

Strongman wanted 'inferno' on Lampedusa, says Frattini

26 August, 14:06
Gaddafi used refugees as 'human bombs' (ANSA) - Rome, August 26 - Besieged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi diverted massive amounts of migrants to Italy as an attempted reprisal for Italy's involvement in NATO-led air strikes in Libya, Italian Foreign Minister and the Libyan ambassador to Italy said on Friday.

"I confirm that Gaddafi himself organized this flow of illegal migration," said Abdulhafed Gaddur on Italian radio. "He was the one who gave the orders".

Since the start of the year, some 50,000 migrants and refugees from North Africa, first from Tunisia and then from Libya, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which quickly overburdened local facilities.

A deal with Gaddafi to turn migrants back before they neared Italian waters had limited the flow of migrants until the Libyan uprising earlier this year brought down strict border controls, and Italy's involvement in a NATO intervention soured a once friendly relationship between Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Gaddafi.

"[Gaddafi] said he wanted to turn Lampedusa black," said Gaddur, referring to the fact that many of the exiles were migrants to Libya from Sub-Saharan Africa. Gaddafi said he wanted to use them as "human bombs," Gaddur added.

Gaddur said he suspected that one thousand people died in their attempts to reach Italian shores.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that further evidence of Gaddafi's orders would soon be made public.

As the Gaddafi regime nears its end, Frattini responded to suspiscions that Italy and France were more interested in Libya's resources than the best interests of the country itself, which is a former Italian colony.

"There's no race to see who gets there first," said Frattini on Italian radio.

"We're doing what we've always done: confirming the friendship between the Italian people and the Libyan people," he added.

The foreign minister also said that Italy's military role in Libya will continue even after Gaddafi is found, "as long as the circumstances require," highlighting that the transitional government will have the final say.

He also underlined Italy's "decades-long" ties with Libya, including mutual political and economic interests, which he said will continue now that the transitional council has promised to honor trade agreements with Italy.

Once Gaddafi's closest European ally, Italy has investments in Libya stretching from multibillion-euro defense and construction contracts to oilfields that supply the Italian oil giant Eni, representatives of which have been working with Libyan insurgents in Benghazi to reactivate oil installations shut down by the military conflict.

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