Libyan Refugee Crisis Deepens, Obama Weighs In With Help, Qaddafi With Guns

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Photo: Marco Longari/Getty Images

A steady flow of some 10,000 to 15,000 refugees a day through the borders of Libya into Tunisia, Niger, and Egypt has slowed to a trickle after dictator Muammar Qaddafi began hiring mercenaries from all over Africa to aid him in the fighting in Tripoli and along the country's edges. Paying fighters from Chad, Niger, Mali, and Zimbabwe from $300 to $2,000 a day to shoot at fleeing protesters and to intimidate refugees at border crossings, Qaddafi is still struggling against a disorganized but enraged resistance. President Obama yesterday said that Qaddafi has "lost legitimacy" and "must leave," in a speech where he also pledged to help by airlifting out refugees using military planes. But still, in Tunisia, a "logistical nightmare" is unfolding, with tens of thousands of immigrant workers fleeing Libya and attempting to return home. Tunisia, which has just undergone its own dramatic civilian revolt, is not equipped to handle the volume of refugees from Libya, even with international aid.

Obama Tells Qaddafi to Quit and Authorizes Refugee Airlifts [NYT]