The Death of war hero Ibrahim “Gaddafi” Abushaala

After the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) and Serb rebels occupied most of Lipik in October 1991, defense lines remained unchanged until 28 November 1991. On that day, all of Lipik came under occupation and in a final attempt to defend the city, Ibrahim “Gaddafi” Abushaala, commander of the defense of Lipik and hero of the Homeland War, was killed in action.

Ibrahim Abushaala was born on 28 July 1955 in Misrata, Libya, as one of seventeen children of father Milad and mother Fazlija. He was a medical technician and served in the Libyan armed forces for seven years during the war between Libya and Chad. There he met his future Zorica Jurka, a Croat who had been working in Libya as a nurse for eight years. After her return to Croatia, Abushaala followed her to the town of Lipik. Because of his origins, he became known by the nickname “Gaddafi” after the former Libyan president Muammar al-Gaddafi but was also known by many as Martin. Although a native Libyan, Abushaala loved Croatia and considered it his second homeland.

Abushaala joined in the defense of Lipik through his brother-in-law Ivica Mareković who was the president of the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Lipik. Initially, he was on night watch but as the conflict intensified, his military experience in the war between Libya and Chad was in great demand. Abushaala’s courage, composure, and knowledge of weapons and strategy among other qualities led defenders to regard him as a leader. As an operative, he was always in the field where he was tasked with coordinating checkpoints between Dobrovac and Filipovac and their communication with the Defense Command of the city.

When I was in the war in Chad, if you take refuge in a mosque, a cemetery or a hospital, no one would do anything to you. If I described what a dirty war is being fought here in Croatia to everyone in Libya, they would not believe me.

Ibrahim “Gaddafi” Abushaala

As an expert in guerrilla warfare, Abushaala undertook many reconnaissance missions in the field. Those who remember him say that his courage sometimes bordered on insanity because he got quite close to enemy positions unnoticed. He conducted reconnaissance for a special unit of the Ministry of the Interior that mined a wooden bridge on the Pakra River at the foot of the Lipik vineyards. Unfortunately, this did not stop the enemy forces who occupied part of Lipik on 12 October.

Abushaala and his comrades retreated with his comrades to the northern part of the town. The Lipik Defense Command was formed in Filipovac from where it coordinated with newly formed checkpoints in Lipik and spent a portion of October as part of the military police force stationed in Marino Selo. Abushaala soon returned to the frontline at Lipik and became the commander of the 1st Lipik Company of the Pakrac 76th Independent Battalion, hence the commander of the defense of Lipik, after the death of Berislav Ivošević at the end of October. Abushaala was very close to his soldiers, visited them at checkpoints daily, instilled confidence in them and taught them how to handle, among other things, anti-tank weapons.

On 27 November, the YPA and rebel Serbs launched a heavy attack on the unoccupied part of Lipik. That evening, Abushaala told his fellow soldiers at the checkpoint, “I will die tomorrow.” After the enemy had conquered almost all of Lipik on 28 November, its defenders retreated to the outskirts of the town. Those who were near the cemetery sorrowfully received the news of the death of one of their closest comrades Robert Klasnić and after only half an hour another shock followed – “Gaddafi” was dead.

After coming out of the shelter, Abushaala fired a rifle grenade at the enemy and then returned for another one. Just as he exited the shelter and aimed his rifle at the enemy, he was hit by gunfire where the bulletproof vest is fastened together. Abushaala knelt down and uttered his last words: “I have no legs, I’m done for!” His comrades pulled him to shelter behind the house and realized that he was not wounded in the leg but in the armpit. However, it was too late… “Gaddafi” took the cross on his chain, kissed it and passed away.

It was hardest for me when ‘Gaddafi’ was killed. He was our commander during the final fall of Lipik. ‘Gaddafi’ is Lipik’s son-in-law. He was an incredible warrior. He went when no one was able to. Everyone was afraid to go with him. For example, he left at approximately 10:00 PM with only night vision goggles and looked for someone to go with him to carry rockets for his missile launcher. The boys made it halfway before giving up; he would continue alone but always made it back. And that fatal mistake… it was not a mistake but destiny. He would say: If God does not want you, he won’t take you but when he does want you, he will.

Dario, underage Croatian soldier

After they took Lipik, the enemy recorded “Gaddafi’s” dead body with video cameras. The footage was broadcast on Radio and Television Belgrade with the comment that he was a “Libyan mercenary in the service of the Ustasha government.” The news also alarmed the Libyan embassy in Vienna. However, any misunderstanding was cleared up after evidence was presented to prove that he was a volunteer and not a mercenary. Lipik was liberated only a few days after it was occupied and “Gaddafi’s” body was transferred to his native Misrata where he rests today in accordance with his family’s wishes. Prior to departing Zagreb, an Islamic funeral rite was performed for Abushaala in Zagreb led by Šefko Omerbašić, Mufti of the Seniority of the Islamic Community of Croatia.

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