When Sami Muntaser was awoken by his telephone ringing in the wee morning hours last Thursday, he knew there was news from his Libyan homeland.
Family members told him Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s dictator for 42 years, had been captured and killed. Stunned by the news, Muntaser and his wife were overcome by “a feeling of euphoria.”
“(Gadhafi) was famous for terrorism,” said the Fernood resident, who has been living in Canada for 29 years. “He was another Hitler in the making.”
During a visit to Libya in 1989, Muntaser said he was accused of being a communist and imprisoned for four days, during which a gun was pointed at his head and the trigger pulled in a terrorizing game of Russian roulette.
“It felt like 40 years,” he said of the experience.
When Gadhafi forces began attacking civilians, the United Nations authorized a no-fly zone over the country in March. Muntaser and many of the 25 Libyans living in Greater Victoria went to work, raising money and sending over medical supplies.
Muntaser and his friend, Ali Ezletni of Gordon Head, watched with pride as Canada did its part, sending fighter jets and two CFB Esquimalt warships to their homeland.
HMCS Vancouver left for the Mediterranean Sea on July 10, taking over for the East Coast’s HMCS Charlottetown. Vancouver has been patrolling the Libyan coast with its NATO allies, enforcing an arms embargo in the region.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday that NATO has decided to end its mission at the end of October. “The mission itself may end but I know of no current plans to have (Vancouver) return in the immediate future,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Nathalie Garcia, Esquimalt-based navy spokesperson.
“I was hoping Canada would be leading (international military efforts). We are very proud,” said Ezletni, who has been in Canada since 1987.
“The beauty of this is that the world stood with us (the Libyan people). I can’t thank them enough.”