Telco claims NATO air-strikes have caused USD1.2bn infrastructure damage; ‘human shields’ used to defend facilities

According to a story reported by Pan-African news agency Pana, Libya’s telecommunications sector has suffered around LYD1.5 billion (USD1.22 billion) worth of damage, as a result of coordinated NATO air-strikes targeting the country’s telecoms infrastructure. The information was disclosed at a press briefing held in Tripoli by Mohamed Ben Ayad, the president of state-owned ISP Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) and mobile operator Libyana. Ayad described the methodical targeting of the country’s telecoms infrastructure as a ‘crime against humanity in the broadest sense’, adding that the lack of communications has interfered with the disbursement of medical aid to the wounded, and disrupted fire fighters’ activities and other humanitarian efforts. He claimed that Libya intends to file a complaint with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), asserting that the sites targeted are of no military use. Telecoms sites alleged to have been destroyed include: one west of Sirte (central Libya), stations in Al-Hisha, Al-Wachka and Al-Qaddahiya, Al-Jil Al-Jadeed equipment, base stations belonging to cellcos Al-Madar and Libyana in Brega, base stations in Al-Ghardabia, Al-H’nioua, Nouflia and parts of the Ras Lanouf Maritime cable.

Ayad went on to complain that NATO forces had systematically destroyed Libya’s telecoms infrastructure in order to create a lucrative opportunity for foreign companies to rebuild what has been damaged; he alleged that the lion’s share of the reconstruction process will fall to companies from countries currently participating in the military action against Libya.

The announcement follows this week’s revelation that tens of thousands of telecoms workers have been pressed into service to act as ‘human shields’ to deter further NATO air raids on the country’s telecoms infrastructure. At a government press conference on Monday, a man claiming to represent more than 20,000 workers read out a statement indicating that the workers have vowed to guard telecoms base stations with their lives. The statement concluded: ‘We, the telecoms workers, are present with our families and children around the clock, and in shifts, to protect this utility. We will be human shields to confront any aggression or bombing aimed at continuing destruction of the communications infrastructure’.

[Source: TeleGeography, Washington, 20May11]

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