Libya's national hero upon his capture by Italian occupiers on 11 September 1931. A few days later he was hanged in public.
Tripoli— As Italy prepares to send 200 soldiers along with 100 medical support team and military hospital along with aircraft and warships to Libya to be stationed in the city of Misurata, 200 kms east of Tripoli, Libya commemorates the 84th Anniversary of the death of the national resistance hero Omar Al Mukhtar.
Omar Al Mukhtar led the fight against Italian occupation in Libya from 1911 to 1931. He was captured near Slonta in the battle field and was hanged in public a few days later.
The ultimate confrontation between the resistance led by Al Mukhtar and the Italian occupiers in eastern Libya began when General Rodolfo Graziani became Italy’s military commander in March 1930.
When a massive offensive in June against Mukhtar's forces failed, Graziani, in full accord with Badoglio, then governor of Libya, Emilio De Bono, minister of the colonies, and Benito Mussolini, initiated a devious plan to break the Libyan resistance.
Over 100,000 population of Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) who constituted the social base of the resistance and support of Al Mukhtar, were relocated to concentration camps on the coast, and the Libyan-Egyptian border from the coast at Giarabub would be closed, preventing any foreign help to the fighters and depriving them of support from the native population.
These measures, which Graziani initiated early in 1931, took their toll on the resistance. The Libyan fighters were deprived of help and reinforcements, spied upon, hit by Italian aircraft, and pursued on the ground by the Italian forces aided by local informers and collaborators.
Mukhtar's struggle of nearly twenty years came to an end on 11 September 1931, when he was wounded in battle near Slonta, then captured by the Italian army. The moments of his capture were reenacted in the 1981 Antony Quinn’s action film Lion of the Desert. Oliver Reed played the part as the Italian General Rodolfo Graziani.
Al Mukhtar was treated by the Italians as a prize catch. But his His resilience during the only five days in detention before they killed him affected his jailers, who later remarked upon his steadfastness.
In three days, Mukhtar was tried, convicted, and, on 14 September 1931, sentenced to be hanged publicly. Without being given the right to speak to a defense lawyer.
When asked if he wished to say any last words after hearing the death sentence by hanging, Mukhtar replied: with a Qur'anic phrase: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” (We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return).
On 16 September 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the POW camp of Suluq at the age of 73 years.
Nonetheless, today Italy’s insistence on a policy of intervening in the Libyan internal affairs by sending troops along with a military hospital, supporting aircrafts and warships could very much backfire. The move has already begun to jeopardize strong bilateral relations between Libya and Italy.