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Friday, February 25, 2011

Online Soccer Network Plays Key Role in Eastern Libya

An online soccer network in eastern Libya played a key role in informing the outside world of developments in the eastern city of Benghazi and shuttling foreign journalists from the Egyptian border into areas controlled by forces opposed to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadaffi.

Tawfik al-Shohiby, a rebel in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city which fell to the protesters after bitter fighting, used his soccer network to initially distribute flash drives and CDs with videos of the fighting in Benghazi and elsewhere in the country to friends in other towns and to journalists. It was their way of circumventing the Gadaffi regime’s efforts to prevent news of the regime’s brutal crackdown to reach the outside world by clamping down on Internet access and telephone communications.

Once anti-Gadaffi forces gained control of towns in eastern Libya, the soccer network began shuttling the first journalists to those areas. The Gadaffi regime has refused to let journalists into the country.

"I have friends from east to west, north to south," Al-Shohiby said referring to his soccer network. "There are two guys in Sabha, one in Zawiyah, three friends in Misurata, for example," he said, speaking of towns where pro- and anti-Gadaffi forces clashed this week.

Al Shohiby said one of his relatives bought $75,000 in automatic weapons from arms dealers on the Egyptian border at the beginning of the revolt against Gadaffi and distributed them to citizens' groups in towns like Al Bayda, hometown of the mother of soccer playing Gadaffi son Saadi al-Gadaffi..

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Al-Shohiby’s network also played a role in distributing the arms.

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