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Empire and Apartheid in Africa

The Italians in Libya | The French in Tunisia and Algeria | The French and Spanish in Morocco | French Colonialism in West Africa | Kenya and the British | Britain elsewhere in Africa | The Union of South Africa in the 1920s

Italians in Libya

Italy had won Libya in its war against the Ottoman Turks in 1912, and now, after the world war of 1914-18, in Libya the Italians were facing resistance to their attempt to expand their rule. In 1922, Mussolini's Italy launched a mechanized drive into Libya's interior, using tanks and aerial bombardment. It was a war that was to last through the decade. As the Italians moved deeper into the desert, the Libyan guerrillas had greater successes against them. Mussolini was determined to succeed in Libya, and he agreed to let his military pursue his war without restraints. The Italians herded thousands of Libyan civilians into concentration camps – to separate the guerrillas from their civilian base. According to a Libyan historian, Mohammed Ali Al-Taeb, as many as seventeen per day died of hunger, illness, and depression. The Italian military responded to newspaper accounts of the suffering by increasing rations to the imprisoned.

The Italians built a barbed wire barrier to isolate the guerrillas from Egypt and to block supplies from there to the guerrillas. The Italians defeated the guerrilla bands one by one, and they captured the eighty-year-old rebel leader, Omar al-Moktar (the Lion of the Desert). In 1931, in the city of Solouq, they hanged him, forcing the city's residents to watch.



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