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Middle east

Libyan rebel who captured Gaddafi dies in Paris

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2012-09-26

Omran Shaaban, one of the Libyan rebels credited with capturing Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, has died from gunshot wounds in a Paris hospital. Questions abound about the circumstances surrounding Shaaban’s death.

He rose to fame as the man who discovered Muammar Gaddafi hiding in a drain pipe near the Libyan city of Sirte in October 2011. But less than a year later, Omran Shaaban was dead in a Paris hospital. Shaaban had succumbed to injuries sustained allegedly at the hands of Gaddafi loyalists after being kidnapped.

The 22-year-old aspiring electrician was given a hero’s funeral in his hometown of Misrata late Tuesday. But in death, the Libyan hero has exposed the deep divides that still threaten his country.

Shaaban was only 21 when he accomplished what so many other Libyan rebels dreamed of doing at the time: capturing the Libyan dictator who had been on the run since rebel forces seized the capital of Tripoli in August 2011.

Shortly after Gaddafi was captured, Shaaban appeared in several videos touting the Libyan dictator’s personal revolver. He was widely believed to be among the rebels who tortured and mortally injured Gaddafi.

The young Libyan died on Tuesday in a Paris hospital as a result of gunshot wounds, said a spokesman for the French foreign ministry.

“Omran Shaaban came to France in early September on what we call a humanitarian visa to receive emergency medical treatment,” the spokesman said, declining to comment on the decision to choose France as a destination. “He did not survive his injuries and died Monday night.”

Shot and detained

Shaaban’s death has raised the prospect of even more violence and score-settling in Libya, a country awash with arms that has lingering pockets of support for the old regime.

According to Shaaban’s family, the young man was kidnapped in July near Bani Walid, a western Libyan town that remains a Gaddafi stronghold.

While attempting to escape his captors, Shaaban was shot in the neck and stomach, but survived. His family says Shabaan was held and tortured for 50 days before a personal intervention by Mohammed Magarief, the president of Libya’s National Assembly, secured his release earlier this month.

Shaaban was then flown to France for emergency medical treatment. On Tuesday night, his body was flown to Misrata, where more than 10,000 people joined a procession to a soccer stadium for the funeral.

Are Libya's leaders finally standing up to the militias?

Libyan authorities have so far offered no information about who kidnapped one of the heroes of the Libyan uprising. However, lawmakers have ordered the defence and interior ministries to track down those who abducted Shaaban, calling him a "brave hero".

Nearly a year after Gaddafi’s capture, the security situation in Libya remains tenuous despite government efforts to unify often rival militias into a national security force. The issue came to the forefront earlier this month after residents in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi stormed the strongholds of Islamist militias demanding their demobilisation. The operation was sparked by the September 11 killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Tensions between Misrata, a city that saw some of the worst fighting during the 2011 uprising, and the rival town of Bani Walid have also escalated in recent months.

In an interview with the AFP, Shaaban’s brother, Walid, demanded justice for his brother’s death. "We will take revenge militarily - but legitimately," said Walid, who commands a militia brigade. "We will give the authorities an opportunity to tackle the issue but if they fail to act, we know how to make our move."

Date created : 2012-09-26

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