UN panel: 100s of mercenaries operating in Libya

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2011 1:14 PM
UN panel: 100s of mercenaries operating in Libya

A U.N. panel says several hundred foreign fighters are likely operating for both Moammar Gadhafi's regime and the rebels in Libya, and many may be involved in serious human rights violations.

The head of a United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries said Friday that many of the fighters are likely independent fighters from other African countries, but some are believed to come from Belarus.

"We examined several sources of information that indicate Gadhafi has used mercenaries and is using mercenaries against the population of Libya," said Jose Luis Gomez del Prado.

"There was some information that there were snipers that were contracted at least by Col. Gadhafi and possibly also by the opposition," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, _ were thought to be in Libya.

The panel issued a statement Friday saying it was "especially concerned about the reported involvement of mercenaries in serious human rights violations" in countries such as Libya and Ivory Coast.

Del Prado said at least several hundred mercenaries were known to be in the North African country.

An official at the Belarus mission in Geneva dismissed the claim Belarusians were involved, referring to a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website denying their presence in the North African country.

"There are no (Belarusian) military specialists in Libya and they cannot be there. It's naive to suppose otherwise," spokesman Andrei Savinykh was quoted as saying.

Del Prado said the panel's information came from several sources, who also indicated some of the fighters were provided by private military and security companies. He did not name the companies.

The five-member working group of independent experts includes Najat al-Hajjaji, a former Libyan ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva.