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Kenyans fleeing Libya say they were attacked

Kenyans who fled unrest in Libya said on Monday they had faced attacks and hostility from Libyan citizens and officials who branded them as mercenaries supporting Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

world Updated: Feb 28, 2011 17:57 IST

Kenyans who fled unrest in Libya said on Monday they had faced attacks and hostility from Libyan citizens and officials who branded them as mercenaries supporting Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

A Kenya Airways flight landed in Nairobi with 90 Kenyans and another 64 citizens from South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Burundi, according to officials.

"We were being attacked by local people who said that we were mercenaries killing people. Let me say that they did not want to see black people," Julius Kiluu, a 60-year-old building supervisor, said.

"Our camp was burnt down, and we were assisted by the Kenyan embassy and our company to get to the airport," he said.

Libya's former ambassador to India, Ali-al-Essawi, said last week that African mercenaries were being used by Libya to crush protests, prompting some army troops to switch sides to the opposition.

Another Kenyan worker said government officials were taking telephones, tearing open bags and throwing their contents onto piles at the packed airport in Tripoli.

"When they saw a black person, they immediately saw a mercenary, and if you dared use your telephone in public, it was grabbed and the sim card removed. If your telephone was cheap you got it back, but if it was expensive it was pocketed," said Kenyan worker Francis Ndung'u.

Antony Mwaniki, Kenya's ambassador to Libya, was among those aboard the flight from Libya.

"We have evacuated 154 people of whom 90 are Kenyan nationals," he said.

"The situation in Tripoli right now is calm ... but it would be difficult to know what will happen today, tomorrow or in a few days time so it was paramount and critical that we leave," he told reporters at Nairobi's international airport.

But many Kenyans said they would return to Libya if it stabilised because they were earning good money in the north African country's construction sector.

"If there is peace tomorrow I will go back, there are no jobs here and I was making a good salary," Kiluu said.