Canadian killed while fighting in Libya

A Canadian-born software developer was shot dead in Libya earlier this week while storming a compound believed occupied by Moammar Gadhafi, friends and co-workers said Thursday.

A Canadian-born software developer was shot dead in Libya earlier this week while storming a compound believed occupied by Moammar Gadhafi, friends and co-workers said Thursday.

Nader Benrewin was gunned down by a sniper in the Libyan capital of Tripoli a day after launching a mission to take the compound, they said. He was 24.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of reports that a Canadian was killed in Libya.

Benrewin had only recently joined Libyan rebels fighting the Gadhafi regime, after witnessing the atrocities of the war in the country where most of his family live, his friends said.

Haitham Alabadleh said Benrewin gave up a job as a software developer in order to raise awareness of the plight faced by anti-Gadhafi forces.

“He went to Libya to make sure that he showed the international media what truly happened there,” Alabadleh said.

“Gadhafi keep telling the media, ‘Oh, it’s only small groups, they’re having some dispute and we’re going to solve this problem. Nobody is dying in Libya, everything is fine.’ . . . (Benrewin) wants to go and show abroad a lot of videos and establish a website to show really what’s happening in Libya.”

Benrewin’s Libyan roots ran deep despite a childhood that kept him on the move and saw him settle on three continents. He was born in Edmonton and spent his early years in Ottawa before relocating to the United Kingdom, Alabadleh said. He spent a few years in Tripoli before returning to Ottawa in 2008.

Once there, he threw himself into social causes, frequently attending fundraisers in support of people living in the Gaza Strip or efforts to build a Muslim cemetery in the city, he said. He attended lectures on peace efforts in the Middle East.

Alabadleh said Benrewin had hoped to enrol in a master’s program in information technology but was urged to gain more practical experience before pursuing higher education.

He spent a year and a half working at private technology firm, SilenceIt, before moving onto a web development job at N-VisionIt in December 2010.

During his three months at the company, Benrewin earned a reputation as a first-rate employee with a caring and helpful nature, said co-worker Nathalie Villeneuve.

He was completely open about his plans to support Libyan rebels when he resigned in March, Villeneuve said.

“He gave us a full explanation of what he was intending and the reason why he was leaving so that we could better understand,” she said.

“He was such a great employee and was very, very good at what he did. When he told us that he was planning to leave the company, he had to give us an explanation because we just didn’t understand why you would leave your job if you were so good at it.”

Alabadleh said Benrewin had not initially planned to take up arms in the fight against Gadhafi, saying he hoped to support rebel forces with his technical expertise.

Once rebel leaders recognized his organizational talents and learned he was familiar with Tripoli, however, he was recruited for more front-line tasks, he said. “So he becomes leader management for the group that is to free Tripoli,” Alabadleh said.

Despite months of preparation, Benrewin’s mission lasted only a day before he was hit by a sniper’s bullet on Aug. 23, he said.

Alabadleh said he cried all night after learning of his friend’s death, reminiscing about their days together. He lamented the end of Benrewin’s future plans, which he discussed in detail during instant messenger chats from Libya.

“Always he writes for me and he tell me, ’Yeah, we are doing some good stuff. I hope we’ll free Libya soon and I’ll come back. I remember you, I miss you very much. I want to complete my studies, I want to go back to work.”’

Villeneuve said Benrewin would have been enthusiastically welcomed back to N-VisionIt had he made it home.

Benrewin is survived by his parents, brother and sister who live in Tripoli.

Alabadleh said the family has had to go into hiding since Benrewin’s death for fear of retaliation from pro-Gadhafi forces.