February 22, 2011 / 7:34 AM / in 8 years

UPDATE 1-Africa mercenaries used in Libya crackdown-ambassador

(Adds details, quotes)

By Henry Foy

NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - African mercenaries are being used by Libya to crush protests, prompting some army troops to switch sides to the opposition, Libya’s ambassador to India, who resigned in the wake of the crackdown, said on Tuesday.

“They are from Africa, and speak French and other languages,” Ali al-Essawi told Reuters in an interview, adding that he was receiving information from sources within the OPEC-member country.

Essawi, who has left the embassy since he resigned on Monday to protest the violent crackdown and is now staying at a hotel in New Delhi, said he had been told there had been army defections.

“They (troops) are Libyans and they cannot see foreigners killing Libyans so they moved beside the people,” Essawi said, looking nervous and agitated.

Diplomats have said the U.N. Security Council would hold a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Libya.

“Libyans cannot do anything against the air fighters. We do not call for international troops, but we call on the international community to save the Libyans,” Essawi said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Essawi told Reuters that he expected more diplomats at foreign missions to resign due to the ongoing violence in Libya. He said ambassadors in China, Poland, Tunisia, the Arab League, and the United States had also stepped down.

“Fighter aircraft were bombing civilians on the streets of Tripoli, this is unprecedented violence,” Essawi said.

Reporting by Henry Foy; Writing by Paul de Bendern; Editing by Alistair Scrutton

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