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Libyans Trained To Fight Gadhafi Now Scattered In United States

May 18, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ About 350 Libyan guerrillas trained by the United States to fight dictator Moammar Gadhafi have been scattered in undisclosed locations in the United States to be resettled at government expense, officials said Friday.

The decision to accept the soldiers of the self-styled Libya National Army as refugees ended a six-month odyssey for the men who once served in Gadhafi’s expeditionary force that invaded Chad, Libya’s neighbor to the south, and later decided to attack their north African homeland.

On Thursday, the guerrillas were quietly flown from Kenya to New York. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that after they landed in the United States they were sent ″to various destinations,″

He refused to say exactly where they went or to identify the private agencies the government has retained to help the new arrivals.

However, some apparently were to be settled in New York City and in Phoenix, according to local groups working in conjunction with the State Department.

The Phoenix director of the Tolstoy Foundation, David Lockey, said the men being sent there were mainly mechanics and pilots, mostly high school graduates in their 30s.

Nine Libyans arrived in Phoenix on Friday and five more were expected soon, said Asfaha Bahlbi of the foundation.

Lockey said he had ″heard good things about this group. They are hard workers. I don’t expect any trouble.″ He said they would be tested for their language and other skills and would be placed in such jobs as beginning positions at hotels and restaurants.

Some of the men have families or spouses in Libya who may well come to the United States, he said.

Timothy McCully, a program officer for refugee affairs with Interaction, a refugee agency clearinghouse in New York City, said the government had asked his group several months ago to help find places for some of the Libyans ″because they were outside the normal pipeline.″

″The resettlement agencies responded to the need to resettle these people as anybody else,″ McCully said. ″They were given no different priority.″

A reversal of political fortunes in Chad had turned them from favored revolutionaries-in-exile to unwanted outcasts.

Pentagon sources said the force conducted several operations into Libya but would not say whether the troops ever engaged in combat or what the cross- border expeditions entailed.

The Libyans were captured when Gadhafi invaded Chad, the former French colony to his south, in 1983 and 1987. Gadhafi’s forces were repulsed with the help of French troops and U.S. military advisers.

State Department officials say some among the thousands of Libyan prisoners of war formed an anti-Gadhafi force. The sources, speaking on the condition they not be identified, said U.S. military advisers helped train the force as part of an effort to destabilize the Gadhafi regime, which the United States contends is a sponsor of international terrorism.

The Libyan rebels were tutored in the use of explosives and light weaponry, land navigation and other guerrilla skills, a Pentagon official said.

But when a group of Chadian officers backed by Libya overthrew the pro-U.S. government in Chad last December, all Libyan prisoners were released from their camps and told to return home.

About 600 were afraid to return, apparently because of their involvement with the United States, the State Department said. In what officials described as a humanitarian gesture, U.S. military cargo planes were sent to take the 600 to Zaire, which agreed to give them temporary sanctuary while the United States sought to find them a more permanent home.

Libyan officials visited the group in Zaire and persuaded some 250 to return. The United States then moved those who remained to Kenya, another nearby friendly country, which also agreed to give them only temporary shelter. The Bush administration gave Kenya $5 million in military aid which it had withheld because of human rights abuses there.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees joined the United States in an international search for a country that would offer the Libyans permanent refuge, but none could be found.

The United States then decided to accept the troops into its own refugee program. The government provides education, training, health benefits and cash payments to help resettle refugees, whom it defines as people with ″a well- founded fear of persecution″ if they were to return to their native land.