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Who are Libya's sub-Saharan Africans?

Libya's sub-Saharan African population has gotten a lot of attention. They're not all mercenaries and they aren't just from one or two places.

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This list offers a basic (though still speculative and incomplete) look at the sub-Saharan African population in Libya. Even though many of the numbers are estimates (some perhaps wildly off the mark), the size and diversity of the sub-Saharan African community in Libya is clear: it includes people from many different nations and people who came for various reasons (work, study, and asylum, seemingly in that order according to the numbers). So writers, including me, need to talk about the “African” experience in Libya with great care – and it seems better to talk about experiences, plural.

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For those wishing to gain a better sense of people’s experiences in Libya and in flight from Libya, I suggest reading here, here, and here.

As for numbers of mercenaries, both the BBC and AFP cite sources claiming the number of Tuareg mercenaries in Libya is in the hundreds. I have not yet seen a definitive estimate of the total number of mercenaries in the country.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of Africa bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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