Correspondents interviews Salah Maskhot, whose alleged killing at the hands of a foreign special force in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has turned out to be a mere fabrication.

Correspondents interviews Salah Maskhot, whose alleged killing at the hands of a foreign special force in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has turned out to be a mere fabrication.

While spending Eid al-Adha holiday with his family, the news of 46 year-old Salah Maskhot’s murder, was all over local and international newspapers and social networking sites. Major international news agencies like France 24 and Italian media outlets circulated the news that Maskhot had been killed by a special foreign force for allegedly being one of the biggest internationally wanted human traffickers. He was said to have been killed with a number of his bodyguards after an exchange of fire.

On September 26, a few days later, the Italian foreign ministry issued an official statement saying: “The ministry categorically denies the news circulated by the media about the involvement of Italian Special Forces in Libya in the killing of Salah Maskhot.” However, the denial did not have the same media coverage as the news of his death.

During his interview with Correspondents, Maskhot receivied repeated phone calls from his friends and colleagues inquiring about his welfare. They all believed that such news would, for one reason or the other, expose his life to more threats amid the current chaotic situation in Libya.

This fear prevented Maskhot, an Amazigh citizen from Zuwara and employee at the Mechanical and Electrical Industries Company, from publishing his photos in the media. We have also responded to that request by not publishing his picture with this interview.

Salah Maskhot, how did you learn of the news about you?

I was astonished on Friday morning, September 25 when I received numerous phone calls from my relatives and friends checking on the news of my death. I had heard nothing until I watched the news and read the bizarre details of the alleged fight in which I was reported killed. According to the news, nine other people were killed by the international forces in the Alfornaj district near Tripoli.

I was taken by surprise, stunned and did not know what was going on.

Were you in Tripoli at that time?

Absolutely not. I was spending the second day of Eid al-Adha with my family at our home in Zuwara. I did not go to Tripoli at all during that time, and all those who called or came to see me found that I was at home.

Who then was the Amazigh human trafficker reportedly killed in Tripoli that day?

It is certain that on that day no citizen from Zuwara died. According to eyewitnesses from our area, the incident never happened.

Strange. The incidents were fabricated in a surprising and suspicious way. Some incidents that happened before Eid were exploited to forge the story. For example, a young man named Sanad Bu Sahmin died before the fabricated incident and the media, claiming he was the nephew of the General National Congress speaker, Nouri Bu Sahmin, who said he was my partner in human trafficking and that we were killed together.

The fire that broke out in Zuwara before Eid, due to rainwater leakage into the fuel tanks inside one of the stations, had also been linked to the incident. The media reported that the fire was retaliation by my ‘supporters’ for my killing.

All those incidents were chronologically unrelated and were documented by the relevant authorities. Anyone can verify it before promoting false news.

What about the circulated news that you were involved in military activities or human trafficking?

That is totally untrue. I am a civilian, and do not head any militia, nor do I follow any armed formation. I do not have any political orientation, and I think that the political rivalry, taking place in Libya at present does not represent me and is meaningless. It is high time we shook hands and engaged in building a Libya for all of us, away from armed conflict. Taking up arms has ended since the fall of Gaddafi, and therefore I do not carry any weapon, and do not have any bodyguards.

This also applies to human trafficking, which I consider a crime against the law, Sharia, and humanity. Besides, I hold a university degree and have a stable job. I have also worked as trader for some time back, which has improved my financial status. Thus, I need not engage in such illegitimate jobs to earn money.

Media reports claim that you have were wounded and transferred to Tunisia for treatment. They say you were hospitalized and saved. Were you actually in Tunisia after the Eid holiday?

I have told you that many incidents were adversely exploited by the media. I went to Tunisia before and not after Eid, and had a surgery where a lipoma on my back was removed. I returned to Libya on September 16, and have not left Zuwara ever since.

You are from Zuwara, a small town, where people know each other. How did people react to your ordeal?

Frankly speaking, both the official authorities represented by the municipal council and the local population have reacted positively. They supported me, because they know the reality very well, and also because I live with them and among them.

Moreover, the strong position taken recently by the population of my town against human traffickers, reflected a former position in this regard. It made it hard for traffickers to stay in the city. The special crime control task force at Zuwara has launched a campaign and arrested a number of those involved in human trafficking. Their photos were published and open to the public, which is unprecedented; no other city has openly undertaken such measures against this illegitimate trade.

What do you intend to do now after this media furor?

This fabricated story and the ugly way in which my life has been targeted is a gross violation against me. I am currently in the process of taking all necessary measures to establish the fact. I will use the official channels to prosecute all those engaged.

I will not forgive anyone, and will not accept any apology including the one made by Afrigate news website, which persistently disseminated false details about the incident. An open apology is not enough. My family and I, and even my town, have been affected by such rumors. My life is at risk, and we have every right to restitution. I will sue them all, be it local or international media.