Families Flee As Libyan Rebels Attack Sirte

'We're Going to Punish Even Those That Supported Moammar With Words'

We’re going to punish even those that supported Moammar with words.” That was the grim warning from one of the rebel fighters poised to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte.

It was warnings like these, as well as the violent depopulation of loyalist cities like Tawarga that has Sirte’s civilian residents hoping to flee, with many families looking to head out of town as the rebels move in.

Getting out is easier said than done, however, as civilians trying to flee find themselves captured by the rebels and checked against long lists of dissidents which they intend to intern, and very few seem to be successfully fleeing.

This includes some 5,000 Tawarga residents. After the predominantly black city was attacked by Misrata rebels, the residents were herded into refugee camps in Tripoli. When those camps were attacked by the same rebels days later, they scattered. Some ended up in Sirte, one of the few places inside Libya where having black skin isn’t a one way ticket to a prison cell. Presumably these Tawargans will find themselves under even deeper scrutiny if indeed the rebel forces capture them again, though prison space seems to be running low across a nation where open-ended detention is becoming the new normal.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.