Libya: Mares and foal brutally killed in stud horror as conflict worsens

Horse Racing Libyan Stud
Libya’s top sire Brut Force in happier times at the Al Shaab Stud. Photo: Al Shaab Stud

By Jon Lees

Libya: The largest stud in Libya has been the victim of a violent attack which ended in the brutal killing of two mares and a foal.

The mares, who were aged 16 and 14, and a filly foal who was less than a week old suffered horrific skull, abdominal and intestinal injuries at a farm managed by the Al Shaab Stud.

Dr Amad Ashaab, general manager of the Al Shaab Stud. Photo: Al Shaab Stud

Distressing images of the dead horses were shared on Twitter by the stud’s general manager Dr Amad Ashaab in a bid to draw attention to events in the north African country where fighting between the UN-recognised government and forces loyal to eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar have intensified in recent days.

“In the early morning we have a phone call from the grooms to say we have lost two mares and one foal from the next farm we manage,” said Ashaab. “The grooms took the pictures when nobody from the militias was there at the time and sent them to me before they left.

Al Shaab Stud outside Tripoli in Libya which is now in the hands of militias. Video: Al Shaab Stud

“These were local thoroughbreds, the third generation bred in Libya. In one of the pictures the mare has very traumatic thoracic and abdominal injuries and no intestine and no skin between the horse and the ground. The other showed the foal also injured at her abdomen and the third mare had some injuries in the skull.

“All of them were killed at the same time. It’s awful to see these scenes. I don’t like to post the pictures but we need help from any solution to help stop this war. That’s why I posted them but it is very awful for us. It was a very traumatic end for these horses. This area is very dangerous.”

The Al Shaab Stud, on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli, was overrun in January by armed militia from the city of Tarhuna. The site was looted and six stallions and six mares in foal were stolen.

The horses taken included Raise A Grand, who won the G2 Solario Stakes at Sandown in 1998, Eavesdropper –a Kingmambo half-brother to A.P. Indy and Summer Squall – Australian-bred Churchill Downs, who placed in the Golden Slipper in Australia, Libya’s top sire Brut Force, Metternich and Backdraft.

The stallion Backdraft, who was stolen in January. Photo: Al Shaab Stud

Ashaab believes the stallions were taken to Tarhuna but he cannot visit the stud because it has become a militia base.

“We have some mares back at the stud but nobody can take care of them because the militias are using the stud to locate their army,” he said. “It is very dangerous for us or for any people to help us.

“We have no news of the stallions but we think they are still alive. From what we hear they have had good treatment, but only for the stallions.”

Dr Ashaab with John Warren (left), the Queen’s racing and bloodstock advisor.
Photo: Al Shaab Stud

Despite a UN plea for all conflicts to pause while the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, the bombing around Tripoli is said to have been the worst for weeks as Haftar presses ahead with his attempt to take the capital. 

Ashaab said: “I am safe but last night there was a lot of bombing around our home because we are very close to the airport. We need Haftar back to his city in Benghazi. It is more than 1,000km between Tripoli and Benghazi. 

“Every day is never the same. Yesterday we had some positive cases for the coronavirus and that is going to make our situation even more complicated.”

Dr Ashaab, who is also a veterinarian, has established the stud with horses and mares imported from Europe and Australasia in a bid to create a racing and breeding industry in Libya. In February he received a communication from the Queen expressing her best wishes after the incidents were brought to her attention.

COVID-19: Christophe Soumillon shocked by lack of testing on return from Dubai

COVID-19: Racing in New Zealand suspended while Australia continues

Argentina: El Latino – triumph and rancour in continental championship