March 10, 2011


Alex Crawford of Sky News gives a behind-the-scenes account of how she was able to report from Zawiya, Libya. A follow-up to my previous post, The Battle for Zawiya.

COOPER: One of the things I found so moving, beyond the injuries and the courage of people who were defending themselves against this onslaught, was them coming up to you and saying, please, please, get these pictures out, please tell our story, because otherwise their deaths will be in vain, and no one will know really the truth about what is happening there right now and continues to happen there right now at this hour.

For you, you used the word massacre. Are you saying what is happening there is a massacre?

CRAWFORD: Well, the true sense of the word massacre is large-scale deaths, right? There are large-scale deaths going on there, and these are primarily -- I mean, seriously, they are -- 99 percent of them are civilians.

They are women. They are children. They are old people. They're not fighters. They're not soldiers. They're just people who are criticizing and who want a change of government. I don't -- if that's not a massacre, I don't know what is.

They actually can't do much to defend themselves. They are (AUDIO GAP) to even leave. They can't even get out of the way of the firing. And they are continuing to be (AUDIO GAP). And that's why, at the end, there was almost constant firing, but one particular brave individual managed to get us out under fire.

And it was so important for them to know that we were going to be able to broadcast the pictures to the world, because as far as Gadhafi authorities are concerned, that didn't happen. The march didn't happen. There aren't tens of thousands of people in Zawiyah who are critical of him, Gadhafi, and they aren't being shelled and they aren't being killed.

And if we hadn't actually had the help and support of these incredibly courageous people, they would still be saying that. But now -- now that the pictures, I would suggest, have put a -- put (INAUDIBLE) to those lies.

They -- how can we make up those pictures? We saw people dying with horrible injuries, and they are civilians. They are -- boys are as old as my son, who is 15. They are young men. I saw one young man who looks he was -- he might be a university student, if he was living in Britain or America.

He had glasses on. He was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. He didn't look at all like a soldier. He was being shown at the last minute as these tanks were rolling into the square how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. And someone was saying, put it on your shoulder, put it on your shoulder. Just try to kneel a bit and just fire.

And he says Allahu akbar and goes off to fight and probably is not alive now. This is -- these are civilians. So, I don't know what -- if that isn't a massacre, I really don't know what is.

COOPER: Well, Alex, I have been just so struck by your reporting over these last several days. And thank you for talking with us. And I'm so glad you're safe. And I'm so glad you have been able to tell the world what is really happening, the truth about what is happening in Zawiyah. Thank you.

CRAWFORD: Thanks for asking me on.

UPDATE: According to ITV news, Zawiya has now fallen. The centre devastated, perhaps hundreds of lives lost.

Gaddafi's men are cleaning up Zawiya, the town they have finally taken after bombarding it for a week. They have brought in road sweepers to brush away the evidence of the worst fighting between Libyans in a century. It is certainly the worst devastation I've seen in any town centre.

The only people were bands of Gaddafi's men, high on victory and bent on revenge, searching buildings for any sign of the rebels who had held them at bay for a week. A resident told us by phone two days ago that there wasn't an animal in the street or a bird in the air above Zawiya. She was right.

Dozens were killed in the battle for Martyrs' Square. There are now many more "martyrs" buried there. I counted more than 20 new graves. Clean-up crews swept furiously, trying to make the square look normal.

Soon there will be no sign of what I saw: blackened tanks being loaded on to transporters; militia vehicles burned and peppered with bullet holes; the clothing of the newly dead, shot in a battle in Gaddafi's backyard.

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