afrol News, 2 March - Libyan activists confirm that the desert oasis Ghadames has fallen to the pro-democracy protesters. It is the first town in the Berber dominated south-west to raise the rebel flag.
Libyan desert town Ghadames is located at the three-country border point with Tunisia and Algeria. The historic oasis town plays an important role in the oil industry of western Libya. The eastern Libyan oil producing areas are already in the hands of the revolution.
According to the "Libyan Youth Movement", a grouping of dissident Libyans within and outside the country in constant telephone contact with protesters on the ground, the black-green-red flag of the rebellion has been lifted in Ghadames. The activists claim to have "confirmed" this important development.
Other sources however claim that there are still pro-Ghaddafi troops and alleged "mercenaries" in the desert town, making it insecure.
The activities of pro-Ghaddafi fighters were confirmed by Algeria's state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach, which during the weekend reported its installations in Ghadames had been looted and its workers had been attacked by "mercenaries". Sonatrach consequently on Monday said it had evacuated Ghadames.
The same day, pro-democracy protesters claimed to have taken control over the oasis town, hoisting the revolutionary flag on local government buildings.
The development, if confirmed by further sources, would be significant. The Ghaddafi regime is in control of most of Tripoli, the coastal c
Scene from the old town of Ghadames, Libya's prime UNESCO World Heritage site
ity of Sirte and the south-western desert Fezzan region. The Fezzan is a major oil producing region, dominated by Berbers and the Tuareg nomads.
Ghadames, while officially part of the Tripolitania region, is culturally a part of the Fezzan region. The fall of Ghadames could be of great importance for other Fezzan oasis towns, which still are in firm control of the loayl Tariq brigade, which is based in the Sabha Oasis, the capital of the Fezzan.
But the possible unrest in Ghadames could also pose a threat to the refugee stream out of Libya. During the last week, hundreds of Libyans and foreigners have fled the country through the Ghadames border, into Algeria. In particular Algerian citizens have made use of this escape route.
Several hundred - maybe thousands - of foreigners are reported to be in Ghadames right now, pleading for their evacuation. According to Migrante International - a Filipino NGO - some 109 Filipino workers are among the many foreigners waiting for evacuation in Ghadames.
Ghadames (also written Ghadamis) is an ancient oasis town dating back to the Roman period. The depopulated old town of Ghadames in 1976 was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and is among the most popular tourist destinations in Libya. There are no indications of fighting at this UNESCO site.
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