Kenyan mercenaries are among foreign soldiers helping the besieged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fight off an uprising.
This was confirmed on Thursday by Col Gaddafi’s former Chief of Protocol Nouri Al Misrahi in an interview with the Al Jazeera broadcasting network.
Mr Misrahi was detailing how Gaddafi had resorted to using mercenaries against his own people after losing control of the Libyan armed forces.
When asked where the mercenaries came from and how they were recruited, the first country he mentioned was Kenya. Other countries he listed are Chad, Niger and Mali.
He described the mercenaries as jobless ex-soldiers and officers who were enticed to Libya by money.
He clarified that they were not sent officially by their governments, but were privateers recruited directly by the regime and they were being used to hunt and kill Libyan dissidents after Gaddafi’s armed police and soldiers abandoned him and “went with the people”.
He said Gaddafi has no more trust in his own armed forces because they had largely defied orders to turn their guns on the demonstrators.
“Those mercenaries are being used against Libyans, because Gaddafi has no more trust in his police and soldiers, they let him down and went to the people”.
The mercenaries from African countries, he said, were poor and homeless former soldiers who were easily recruited over the years.
The former senior official in Libya spoke as the government in Nairobi denied that Kenyan mercenaries were being used to execute Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown.
However, there was an admission that retired police and army officers could be in Libya working for private companies.
The story of Kenyan mercenaries was lent further credence by a Libyan military defector quoted in the UK newspaper — The Guardian – listing Kenya as one of the recruitment grounds for thousands of African mercenaries propping up the regime.
Air Force Major Rajib Feytouni said he had personally witnessed 4,000 to 5,000 mercenaries flown into his air force base on Libyan military transport planes since 14 February— several days before the uprising started.
“They (the planes) had 300 men at a time, all of them coming out with weapons. They were all from Africa: Ghanaians, Kenyans,” he is quoted in the Guardian.
The mercenaries are being used by Col Gaddafi to violently break down the wave of protests that is spreading across the North African country.
“That is why we turned against the government. That and the fact that there was an order to use planes to attack the people,” said Major Feytouni in the second largest city of Benghazi which has fallen in the hands of rebels.
Acting Foreign Affairs minister George Saitoti also denied the allegations when he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence yesterday.
In Parliament, Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka dismissed the involvement of Kenyan mercenaries in the violent Libyan crackdown on protesters.
“The only individuals in Libya are embassy staff and students who are not involved militarily,” he said.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua also denied knowledge of any Kenyan mercenaries fighting on the side of Col Gaddafi.
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