By George Grant.
Tripoli, 1 June:
A growing number of expatriates living in Tripoli’s wealthy Serraj district are falling victim to armed criminals . . .[restrict]targeting them for their vehicles at gunpoint, residents claim.
The authorities’ inability to respond to the crimes has prompted one oil and gas services company to contact the Libya Herald directly in an effort to raise awareness.
The company, which has asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, has had three of its staff targeted in the past two months alone, with all the attacks taking place in broad daylight. It is understood that several similar attacks have also taken place against foreign employees of other companies during this period.
The most recent attack took place on Tuesday against one of the company managers, a European, directly outside of his house.
“I had just parked my car in the driveway and got out to open the garage door, leaving the engine running”, he recalls. “Immediately, a white car sped towards me an stopped right in front of me. There were two young guys inside, maybe 20-23 years-old.
“The one in the passenger seat got out, walked towards me and shook my hand, giving me some salutary bull****. Then he pulled a gun out from behind his back and pointed it at my torso, motioning at me to step back.
“He moved towards my car, and as soon as I realised he was going to try and steal it, I made to stop him. He pointed his pistol directly at my head. Obviously I backed off.
“I managed to get the registration number of the other vehicle as they drove off and filed a police report later that night. I was informed that three similar incidents had been reported earlier that day alone. Of course, the authorities have done nothing.”
Two months before that, another manager, also a European, was targeted at a park in Serraj popular with walkers, runners, and family picnickers. Having just got into his car after a run, two men approached him with a gun, motioning at him to move into the passenger seat.
“He believes they were going to take the car with him inside”, the first manager says. “Instead, he got out of the vehicle, locked it, and walked away. He thought they were going to shoot him at any moment, but perhaps because the area was so busy, they did not.”
Finally, a fortnight ago, one of the company’s maintenance staff, an Asian man, was targeted when a 4×4 pulled in front of his vehicle at a roundabout near to the company offices. This time, two men with a Kalashnikov got out and walked towards him, also apparently after his vehicle. He reacted quickly, backing up and speeding towards his offices. The company presumes he was not followed as the criminals will have known that security guards are present outside.
“All the expatriates here are being watched closely”, the first manager tells me. “They know who we are, where we live, and where our offices are. One of the reasons that nobody can do anything is that if the criminals are targeted in any way, they will retaliate. All that happens is that we file a police report, and they give us the same bloody excuse: ‘There is no system in place. Nothing can be done’.”
When asked if the attacks could prompt the company to consider its future in Libya, he says not, for the time being. “For now, we are going to up our security detail and perhaps station guards at our residence. In the few weeks between now and the elections, I think we will just have to sit tight.
“But after the elections, the new government really needs to give this sort of thing priority”, he says. “The weapons need to be rounded up. This situation where every family owns a Kalashnikov cannot continue. This is not Libya as we know it, and if order is not restored, I fear things will go further south. At the end of the day, we’re here to make money, not risk our lives.” [/restrict]