Brother of Canadian killed in Libya expresses shock
Ottawa IT specialist quit job to join rebel fighters
The brother of the Canadian man killed while fighting alongside rebels in Libya said the 24-year-old IT worker was passionate about the possible liberation of Tripoli but was never expected to take up arms in the cause to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Edmonton-born Nader Benrewin left his information-technology job in Ottawa in March to join the Libyan uprising against Gadhafi and his forces. He was reportedly shot by a sniper in the head while trying to seize the despot's compound in Tripoli.
His older brother, Tarek, told CBC News Thursday that Benrewin had originally gone to Libya to share his IT expertise in blocking surveillance of mobile networks that could threaten the rebels in Benghazi.
Baird Welcomes New Libyan Diplomat
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met the new Libyan chargé d'affaires to Canada on Thursday.
"I am pleased to welcome Abubaker Karmos, appointee of the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, as chargé d'affaires ad interim at the Embassy of Libya in Canada," Baird said in a statement.
The flag of the NTC, the political body formed to represent forces opposing Moammar Gadhafi, will hang alongside those of the world's nations in the foreign affairs headquarters in Ottawa.
"Canada will interact with the NTC as Libya's government until the Libyan people select for themselves elected representatives," Baird's statement read.
The statement added that Canada will resume its normal operations at the Canadian embassy in Tripoli once the security situation cools down.
"Initially, the purpose of the visit was not to be a fighter or join the freedom fighters," Tarek said, speaking from Cairo. "It was to help pick up and reconfigure the mobile networks and to liberate the cities, because Gadhafi's government had tapped them."
'We've never held guns in our lives'
The decision to remain in Libya and assist the rebels beyond IT matters was made while Benrewin continued with humanitarian work in the war-scarred North African country. Although he recognized the risks of joining the rebels, Tarek said he felt there was no talking Benrewin out of it.
"For me it was shocking because my brother is a civilian and he's an IT specialist," Tarek said, adding that he had always known his younger brother as a peaceful man and that nobody in the family had ever done military service before. "We've never held a gun in our lives."
Tarek said he had agreed to keep his brother's actions a secret from their parents so as not to worry them. The brothers also feared that any mention of joining rebels could endanger Benrewin, lest the phone lines be tapped.
Benrewin's sudden death came as a shock to the rest of the family. He was honoured at a funeral as a martyr and a hero.
"Sadly, his death came just a few hours before the liberation of Tripoli, which is very difficult because he could have lived to see the glory and the happiness of the people he fought for and liberated," Tarek said. "But it's also difficult on my family because he contacted my mother a few hours before [he died] and said, 'I'll be home for dinner. Please prepare something nice for me and my friends'."
Intended to continue education in Ottawa
Benrewin had also told friends he wanted to stop fighting as soon as Gadhafi was gone in order to continue his education.
A friend of Benrewin's told CBC that he left Canada when he was five years old and returned to this country in 2008.
Abdurrahman Ghariba of Gatineau, Que., said he received a phone call from a friend in Libya saying Benrewin, their mutual friend, had died.
Ghariba said the last time he spoke to Benrewin was on Aug. 19 by phone. At the time, Benrewin said, "Libya will be free soon," according to Ghariba.
Citing privacy reasons, the Canadian government offered little comment on the death on Thursday.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is aware of reports of the death of a Canadian citizen in Tripoli," a spokeswoman told CBC. "We can neither confirm nor deny these reports at this time."
Also on Thursday, the Arab League says it will give the Libya's rebel group, the National Transitional Council, a permanent seat, according to a report.
The group has recognized the NTC as Libya's legitimate representative, Reuters reported.
"We agreed that it is time for Libya to take back its legitimate seat and place at the Arab League," Secretary General Nabil Elaraby told reporters.
The diplomatic move came as the search for Gadhafi continued.
Rebels stormed Gadhafi's massive compound in Tripoli two days ago, and it is believed the man who ruled Libya for more than four decades may be holed up in a safe house in the capital or he may have fled to more friendly ground.
Liam Fox, the United Kingdom's defence secretary, said NATO is involved in the hunt for Gadhafi. He said NATO is "providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to help in the hunt."
In Tripoli's newly renamed Martyr's Square, young rebel soldiers gathered to celebrate. They fired their guns into the air and tore up posters of Gadhafi.
"He's a coward. He's in a hole. He's hidden in a hole," Mohammad Bakir told CBC's Derek Stoffel. "We're celebrating. All Libya is celebrating now."
The Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, said four Italian journalists kidnapped in Libya have been freed. The paper said the four were freed in a raid on a Tripoli house where they were been held.
The four journalists were abducted Wednesday by Gadhafi loyalists. The Libyan driver for the journalists was killed.
"They shot the driver dead in front of us. We are fine, but our thoughts are with the driver who died. We have become close friends with him," said Claudio Monici of Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops conference, after he was freed.
The other journalists included two reporters for Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera and one from Turin's La Stampa.
With files from The Associated Press