Sunday, February 20, 2011

Behind the Tunisian Revolution: Massacre by the Mysterious Militia

Al Jazeera reports that the intentional killing of protesters by the "mysterious militia" in the town of Kasserine near the Algerian border sparked the nationwide revolution that toppled the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Ben Ali, a former hairdresser.

And that "mysterious militia" was made up of women.

According to Al Jazeera's Yasmine Ryan, protests across the poorest region of the country since December 17, 2010 got suddenly deadly and sinister in the town of Kasserine on January 8, 2011, when an unidentified militia with sleek outfits appeared, and started shooting people with live ammo.

Then, the next day, the same militia, which included a blond woman, threw teargas canisters into a traditional sauna full of women and children. According to Al Jazeera, "Yakin Karmazi, a seven-month-old baby, died after her lungs were destroyed by teargas." And that, I think, was the beginning of the end.

More from Al Jazeera "The massacre behind the revolution" (Yasmine Ryan, 2/16/2011 Al Jazeera) [emphasis is mine, other than the subtitles]:

.....The following day [January 9, 2011], four agents stormed the women's hammam, a traditional sauna, on Monguela roundabout, where several women were relaxing with their young children.

Rebah Rebhi, the owner of the hammam, said the agents swore at the women and shot teargas into the hammam, blocking them from escaping. When the women, desperate for fresh air, opened a window, agents shot another teargas canister in through the opening, she said.

One of the agents who raided the hammam was a woman whose long blond hair flowed out from beneath her helmet. The other three were men, Gadbar said. All were dressed in black uniforms.

The terrified, semi-clothed women were only allowed to flee the gas-filled hammam after several minutes, coughing and choking. Rebhi's elderly mother had to be hospitalised, as did some of the children.

Saber Rtibi, a 23-year-old who was about to move to France with his father, came to the defence of one of the fleeing women. The young man had just been to the grocery store when he saw his neighbour, Monia Omri, running up the street from the hammam with her young daughter, both coughing from the gas, according to Sourour Abdallah, an 18-year-old who was standing on the street that day.

The blond agent was chasing Omri and swearing at her. Rtibi tried to intervene, but the agent shot him in the stomach, killing him slowly.

After shooting Rtibi, the blond sniper removed her helmet, tossed her hair and blew kisses in the direction of his body, Abdallah and other witnesses present that day said.

Abdallah believes the agents gassed the hammam and insulted the women to provoke a reaction from the youth.

"They were doing that so that boys would come to protect their mothers, so they could shoot them," Abdallah said.


The funeral massacre

Security forces tried to forbid locals from joining the funeral procession for Massoudi on January 10. Despite the warning, more than 200 people chose to accompany the young man's coffin through the streets of Ezzouhour to the cemetery.

Sayhi Ahmed, a friend of Massoudi who took part in the procession, said they marched to mark the death of Massoudi, and to protest "for freedom, for rights, for human values and for jobs".

Anti-riot police refused to allow the cortege to pass, however, blocking its route. Security forces launched teargas, while youths responded by throwing rocks.

Shortly after midday, at least five snipers standing on rooftops suddenly started firing on the procession, according to Ahmed. Most of them appeared to be women, he said, wearing helmets and black uniforms, automatic rifles in hand.

Amongst those killed was his friend Mohamed Khadraoui, 22, who was felled by a bullet in the head.

"He was killed in front of me," Ahmed said. "They killed without pity."

Khadraoui's killer, standing on the roof of a cafe, gave the thumbs-up sign after hitting her target.


Mysterious militia

All witnesses in Kasserine agreed that the "snipers" responsible for most of the shootings were neither part of the regular police, or members of the BOP.

There has been speculation that they were members of the elite presidential guard. But according to a source with ties to the interior ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, the shooters were members of a special militia that was organised independently from the presidential guard, although they were under the same command.

The militia was formed by General Ali Seriati, the former head of presidential security, Rafik Belhaj Kassim, the former interior minister, and Leila Ben Ali, the former First Lady.

It's just sick, sick people. Leila Ben Ali's husband is in a coma in Saudi Arabia, and she's no longer at his side. She may have left her diamonds (along with countless wads of US dollar and Euro) in the presidential palace, but she's got the gold - 1.5 tonnes of it.

And it is beyond cynical to the point of nauseating for the Obama White House and its vassals (like Jesse Jackson) to spin the Wisconsin public union workers' demonstrations as "freedom fighters" like Tunisians and Egyptians. Too bad the otherwise sensible bloggers like him is peddling that meme.


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