Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya: Beloved Libyan Poet Murdered in Benghazi

Benghazi — In the early days of the Libyan revolution, poet Atef Al-Arafi gave inspirational readings in Benghazi. On Monday (March 24th), he died there in a hail of bullets.

"Atef went to his car after playing in a football match," said eyewitness Mohamed Moussa, an 18-year-old student. "Shops were open and the street was full of people. Cars stopped, and 12 masked men got out with their Kalashnikovs."

The young witness continued describing the scene. "Two of them stepped forward and called Atef," Mousaa said. "When he turned around, they strafed him with bullets. Atef fell to the ground reciting the Shahada. Then the gang drove away."

"The strange thing is that people were watching and no one could do anything," Moussa told Magharebia. "We were shocked and returned home with a feeling of disappointment in our revolution."

"The country has become really scary," the student added. "All those who have money have left it, but what can we do as simple citizens? Should we wait for our turn to be liquidated?"

The killing was not the end of the story, the poet's neighbor told Magharebia.

"Atef's wife was about to give birth, and when she heard the news about his death, she was taken to hospital," Maraey Fadhl recounted. "That baby girl and her sister will now live without their father. What is their culpability? And what's their father's?"

The popular poet was remembered by Libyans for his contribution to the revolution.

Actor Fodil Bouajila said, "My brother and friend Atef was a hero and fighter at Freedom Square in Benghazi, with his distinguished, satirical, popular style."

Al-Arafi was a "real match for the former regime's media, and became a symbol loved at all Libyan squares, which were happy and proud to have him", the al-Marj resident added.

Journalist Fouad Saleh of Tobruk said, "I don't know where to start. Should I start with praying for mercy for all Libyans, whether young people, old people or children who lost their lives? Or should I start with cursing the death gangs and General National Congress (GNC)? Or should I cut the distance and curse all those who are silent about truth?"

The poet's killing came amidst a series of attacks on media activists, artists, politicians and military officers.

Mohamed al-Hejazi, a photographer working for the Benghazi-based Libya First TV station, was injured in an attempted assassination at the week-end.

In another public attack on Tuesday, gunmen in three cars ambushed former Tibesti Hotel manager Mohamed Al-Tweir al-Majbri outside his home in Benghazi's Fuwaihat district. The assailants "shot him multiple times, shouting 'Allahu Akbar', before driving off at speed", Libya Herald reported.

Meanwhile, Lt Tariq Kharaz received death threats after appearing on Libyan TV and discussing details about those behind the murder wave. He was forced to flee Benghazi, leaving his wife, children and family behind.

His wife called upon Libyans and the world to protect her husband. "He has done nothing except saying the truth," she said.

"I also urge Libyans to protect Benghazi," she said.

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