The Libyan crisis has claimed its first Irish victim with the death of a Waterford born computer engineer in the war ravaged city of Benghazi.
The Irish Times reports that 28-year-old rebel Rami el-Kaleh died on Tuesday night after he was shot in the back by forces loyal to dictator Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.
El-Kaleh enjoyed dual Irish-Libyan citizenship having been born in Waterford, where his father worked in the meat export business, before the family moved back to Tripoli while he was still at primary school.
An unarmed volunteer with the rebels, el-Kaleh had been visiting relations in Benghazi when the revolt against the Gadaffi regime kicked off in the city.
He was on patrol when Gadaffi loyalists opened fire on his car late on Tuesday night. El-Kaleh died en route to a local hospital and was buried on Thursday.
His father Shueib told the Irish Times: “We are devastated. I had so many expectations for my son and his future and now all of that has disappeared.”
Rami’s father also told the paper that his son, who had previously worked in Italy, was due to get married later this year and had been planning a visit to Ireland.
Meanwhile, a group of Libyans with Irish connections has called on Enda Kenny’s new government to follow the French lead and recognize the Libyan National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
“Ireland and Libya are linked on many levels and relations between the two have been strong for a long time,” said Prof Jamal Ben-Amer, a Benghazi-based doctor whose wife, Gina, is from Dublin told the Times.
“We believe Ireland should realize that there is a new reality in Libya for the benefit and mutual interest of both countries.”