‘Please help me, I want to go home’
Tariqul Islam is one of the migrants who have miraculously survived a mass shooting by family members of a human trafficker in the Libyan desert town of Mizdah on Wednesday that claimed 30 lives, including 26 Bangladeshis.
"When the shooting started, I saw people standing around me falling on the ground one after another. Amid a lot of shouting and shooting, I felt something strike me on my arm and I collapsed in a pool of blood with extreme pain. At one stage I lost my consciousness and when I woke up, I found myself in a hospital bed," Tariqul told the Daily Star over phone yesterday.
"I can't believe that I'm still alive," he said before starting to cry profusely.
The 22-year-old from Magura, who ended up as a victim of ransom-seeking traffickers after going with a broker to Libya to seek his fortune, was laying on a bed at the Tripoli Medical Centre when he was narrating the Mizdah massacre.
He said it was after Asr prayers on Wednesday when the trafficker's family turned on the hostages after the gang leader was allegedly killed in an altercation with the migrants.
"There was an altercation between the traffickers and hostages when they demanded more money. After the gang leader was killed in the altercation the family members turned up.
"There were around 250 of them. They dragged us out from our room [smuggling warehouse] before they started shooting. There were at least 11 of them who were shooting with different types of weapons," said Tariqul, still traumatised.
He said the bullet wound is painful, but the tortured back is even more so.
"I can't sleep on my back. They hung me by the hands with a rope and assaulted me with a plastic object, demanding money, every day. There were around fifty of us and all of them were tortured for money intermittently every day," said Tariqul.
"They were demanding 12,000 dollars from each of us. They said 'Either you pay or die'. I have come from a poor family and it was impossible for my family to meet their demand," he said.
"I want to go home. Please, help me sir," the young man from Magura was saying repeatedly.
Tariqul's parents Phul Mia Molla and Ayesha Begum, who live in Narayanpur, under Binodpur upazila, desperately want the safe return of their only son.
"I want my son back," Tariqul's mother Ayesha Begum said when contacted.
Responding to the query, Ayesha said they sold two cattle for Tk 1.2 lakh and took Tk 1.50 lakh as loan from banks and borrowed the rest from neighbours to send their son abroad.
Tariqul completed his primary education and later worked in farmlands to help his father, Ayesha said.
"We are very poor. We have now lost everything," Ayesha said, adding that they need government support to bring their beloved son home.
Most view Libya not merely as a destination that offers better employment opportunities, but also as a transit point to even better destinations, namely Italy or other European countries.
According to the UNHCR, more than two million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.
Their undocumented status makes them prime targets for traffickers.
According to Tariqul, his family had paid Tk 3.5 lakh when he left Bangladesh and another lakh later. But the traffickers and brokers demanded much more when Tariqul was sold off to the former.
He had left Bangladesh with a broker in November 2019.
First, he was taken to Nepal, from where he flew to Dubai. They stayed in Dubai for three days and then went on to Egypt.
From there, they flew to Benghazi in Libya.
They stayed in Benghazi for six months and when he, along with around 50 other people started for Tripoli, they were handed over to a gang, which took them to a trafficking warehouse in the desert town of Mizdah, which is 180 km from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The slayings underscore the perils that migrants face in Libya, where violence and lawlessness have created a haven for smugglers to operate along the North African country's coastline.
The 26 Bangladeshi migrants killed in the massacre were buried in Mizdah, with the Libyan authorities fearing that local gangsters could snatch the bodies of the victims during transit to Tripoli.
The 11 Bangladeshis who were injured in the attack were admitted to a hospital in Tripoli where they are undergoing treatment.