By Ryszard Bouvier.
Tripoli, 17 December:
In one of the more sinister and peculiar incidents to take place in recent times, a long-time . . .[restrict]resident of Libya from Bosnia was found brutally murdered in her Tripoli home last month.
Local volunteers are making great efforts to find donors and new homes for the over 40 cats and dogs the woman had been taking care of.
The murder of Semsa Kuduzovic on 21 November, in the ‘Diplomatic Club’ residential area of Tripoli’s Ain Zara district went virtually unreported. But a local fundraising campaign on behalf of the numerous pets that the 65-year old former pharmacist left behind has brought renewed attention to the case, highlighting the fact that the circumstances of the tragic incident remain unclear.
Police investigating the murder reportedly concluded that the woman was killed by someone from among her employees – migrant workers who helped take care of her property and pets – but rumours suggest there may be more to the story.
A close friend of Semsa’s, who found the body, also believes the murderers’ motive was greed, as the victim had received several thousand Libyan dinars from her daughter just two days before she was killed. It would not have been difficult to know about the money, the friend told the Libya Herald, as Semsa had retired a few years ago and was living on financial assistance, which she received from her family outside the country on a monthly basis. Moreover, the difficulty of taking care of a large number of partly untamed animals made it difficult for her to keep employees over a longer period of time, obliging her to frequently hire strangers with no proof of their trustworthiness.
Evidence on the crime scene indeed points towards a violent robbery. The night Semsa died, her friend already suspected something was wrong. An unidentified person had answered one of Semsa’s two mobile phones when the friend called and then suddenly both lines were closed. Arriving shortly after, the friend found Semsa dead and the house in a state of chaos, with personal items spread all over the place and animals roaming around. So far, one suspect is said to have been arrested, although fingerprints point to the presence of two more accomplices. No official verdict appears to have been issued as investigations continue with the help of a foreign forensic team.
Although these circumstances seem to leave no doubt that the retired pharmacist was murdered by people who knew about the money and took advantage of the woman’s defencelessness, rumours claim the crime could have been premeditated and ordered by someone with more substantial interests.
In a strange coincidence, the victim had recently sued her ex-husband over claims relating to Malta-based trading companies of which the latter is a majority share-owner. According to the sentence of the Maltese Civil Court, the companies were also operating in Libya and were connected to considerable financial interest. Details are too scarce, however, to draw any reasonable conclusions.
More ominously, the murder has also been brought in connection with Libya’s political upheaval. According to the pro-Qaddafi propaganda agency Mathaba, which actively spreads news [much of it plagiarised and distorted Libya Herald articles] about post-revolutionary Libya from an “alternative standpoint”, the elderly Bosnian had previously been threatened by thuwar who presumably accused her of ties to the former regime. Mathaba claims that she had received a phone call from them shortly before her death, which, they say, would have made her a target of political repression by Libya’s current authorities.
According to the organisation’s website, Semsa’s daughter, who they say personally broke the sad news to them, is herself a Mathaba collaborator and “supporter of Jamahiriya” (sic.). “Mathaba Angel”, as they call her, had begged her mother to come live with her in Malta to escape the “terrible situation” in Libya. A quick internet search reveals that during the revolution the young medical scientist indeed expressed criticism of the NATO-led intervention.
But nothing proves that she really is an active member of a group that still claims its allegiance to Qaddafi’s Jamahiriya. If anything, the most likely unfounded conspiracy theories about the Bosnian’s death show the difficulty of solving any case in present day Libya, where a variety of groups and individuals commit acts of violence for motives that are generally difficult to tell apart. Moreover, online support groups such as Mathaba systematically twist the truth in order to discredit the new Libya and its government.
Any story is welcome if it illustrates the lack of security and the deterioration of living conditions for the population. In Semsa’s case, Mathaba emphasised that she remained in Tripoli throughout last year’s fighting, implying that she nurtured a sort of loyalty to Libya under Qaddafi. But friends and acquaintances say she refused to leave mainly because she did not want to abandon her pets, to which she was clearly much attached.
The former pharmacist had spent the past 16 years in Libya rescuing stray dogs and cats and giving them shelter. A group of Libyan and foreign volunteers want to honour her legacy by finding new homes for her now “orphaned” pets, which would otherwise be put down by the compound management. Although some may see this as a secondary concern, it would have surely been one of Semsa’s last wishes, given all the sacrifices she made for them while she was alive.
The volunteers quickly took on the task of collecting all the pets and transferring them to animal shelters, mainly Dr Jalal’s veterinary clinic in Ben Ghashir and a private farm in Janzour.
They also created a Facebook page in order to raise funds to provide shelter, food and medical treatment for the animals. With immediate success, they managed to find new homes for about half of the animals. But according to the doctor there are still about 8 cats and 15 dogs left to re-home. People interested in “adopting” a pet or willing to help out by other means should contact the volunteer group via the Facebook group “Save Semsa’s dogs and cats” .
A raffle is planned for 10 January to raise money for a new shelter. [/restrict]