Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

European mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi, expert says

Between 300 and 500 European soldiers of fortune, including EU nationals, are working for Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, a leading criminologist has said.

The European mercenaries are mostly specialists in heavy weapons, helicopter technology and tactics and command fees of several thousand US dollars a day. The majority come from Belarus, Serbia and Ukraine. There is a significant amount of Polish helicopter experts. Belgian, British, French and Greek nationals are also involved.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Detritus of war in Libya: specialists can command fees of several thousands of dollars a day (Photo: BRC)

The Europeans come on top of much larger numbers of hired fighters from the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali and Somalia, who are paid up to $2,000 a day. The men come and go via the 15-or-so still-operational military airports in southern Libya.

Gaddafi's official army has around 25,000 soldiers left due to desertions. But his sons also command three units of well-equipped militia, numbering between 35,000 and 50,000 men in total.

The information comes from Michel Koutouzis, a Greek expert on organised crime, whose French-registered company, Lotophages Consulting, does research on security issues for the EU institutions, the UN and the French government, and who spent February and March travelling in north Africa.

"In Libyan society, there is a taboo against killing people from your own tribal group. This is one reason why Gaddafi needs foreign fighters," Koutouzis told this website.

A contact linked to the rebel authorities, the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, told EUobserver that Algerian, Russian and Syrian serving military officers have also been helping Gaddafi.

"They began coming after the first US bombardment. Gaddafi changed his tactics - he brought in hundreds of four-by-four trucks from Algeria and stopped relying on tanks," the source said. "The Algerians and the Syrians are worried that Libya could set a bad example."

He added that Gaddafi uses mercenaries because he does not trust Libyans.

"There have been almost constant coups against him over the past 40 years. His personal bodyguard are all foreigners. In terms of his inner circle, the loyalists who really believe in him, it's about 10 people, and one of them [foreign minister Moussa Koussa] has defected."

For its part, Human Rights Watch, which has three people on the front lines in Libya, cast doubt on the reports.

The group's Peter Bouckaert referred to sources in South African mercenary circles, saying "they have not heard of any Europeans, South Africans or Zimbabweans going to fight for Gaddafi ... these networks are in touch with each other, so they would have heard."

He added that rebels tend to treat any sub-Saharan Africans they come across as mercenaries but that most of them are migrant workers. Bouckaert saw just one confirmed case of a hired fighter from Chad during four weeks in the field.

An EU security official and a Nato contact said they have not seen any internal reports about mercenaries. But the Nato source pointed to a press report about Colombian snipers in Misrata.

Looking at the history of mercenary activity in Africa, Alex Vines, a researcher at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said: "European mercenaries were a problem in the 1960s and then again in the 1990s after the Cold War ended. But it has become much more Africanised since then."

He added: "The definition of 'mercenary' is also an issue. What you more often have is individuals who are involved in selling weapons and then providing a bit of advice and training before disappearing."

A UN convention in 1989 defined a mercenary as "any person who is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict; is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and ... is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict."

The convention obliges participating countries to take criminal proceedings against nationals caught doing such activity. Just three EU states - Belgium, Cyprus and Italy - have signed up to the agreement out of a total 33 UN members.

Analysis

EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock

Angela Merkel's failure to form a coalition government has raised concerns in Europe that the EU's most powerful country will send the block into paralysis.

Interview

David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees

David Miliband heads the US-based International Rescue Committee, an international aid organisation. In an interview with EUobserver, he says the EU should take over 500,000 refugees.

Focus

EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual

Online retailers will no longer be able to discriminate against potential customers based on their location in the EU, but the phrase 'this video is unavailable in your region' will remain a common sight in Europe.

EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans

The EU trains the Libyan coastguard and set up a monitoring mechanism to ensure they respect the human rights of migrants. But the mechanism only requires Libyans to file reports about themselves.

Focus

EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual

Online retailers will no longer be able to discriminate against potential customers based on their location in the EU, but the phrase 'this video is unavailable in your region' will remain a common sight in Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  3. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  4. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  6. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  7. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  8. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  9. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  11. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'

Latest News

  1. 1.3 million European citizens in call for glyphosate ban
  2. EU 'cannot afford' lengthy German deadlock
  3. David Miliband: EU should take over 500,000 refugees
  4. EU bans 'geo-blocking' - but not (yet) for audiovisual
  5. EU monitoring of Libyan coastguard done by Libyans
  6. Greek opposition leader promises end to 'surreal' era
  7. Refugee case could topple Slovenia government
  8. Leak: EU states weaken post-Dieselgate testing