Libya: Seconds from a bullet in the head

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MERE seconds from death, this alleged African mercenary was captured by furious Libyan opposition fighters yesterday and was about to be shot before a foreign reporter persuaded them not to execute him.

The rebels showed this correspondent three young African men, who looked to be aged under 20, held at the town of al-Uqayla. They clutched small cases, looking cowed and fearful.

"They admitted they were mercenaries. The one who spoke Arabic admitted it," said rebel volunteer Salah Zwei.

Rebel forces say Gaddafi has turned to African mercenaries to fight his campaign as his Libyan soldiers join the rebels.

"You were carrying guns, yes or no? You were with Gaddafi's brigades, yes or no?" one of the rebels shouted at the young Africans. A silent youth was shoved on to his knees and into the dirt. A man held a pistol close to his face before a reporter protested and told the man that the rebels were not judges.

At the last moment they relented and the trio were pushed into a car headed for Ajdabiyah.

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