Singleton-bred stallion in kidnap death plot
Exclusive: A plot to kill the stable manager of 50 horses kidnapped in Libya - including a blue blood once owned by Australian businessman John Singleton - can be revealed.
Dr Amad Ashaab, the general manager of Libya's largest stud Al Shaab, told News Corp today how the hijackers had tried to lure him to a deadly mediation session.
The prized thoroughbreds - including a direct relative of Phar Lap and former Golden Slipper place getter - have become pawns in a bloody political game in the oil rich African country.
Even the Queen, an avid racing fan, has weighed in, privately sending her best wishes to the stud.
The horses were snatched at gunpoint in January in a raid on the stud.
Dr Ashaab, who has links to the United Nations-backed government based in Tripoli, said today he had no doubt the kidnappers wanted to "kill" him.
"The mediation parties asked me to go to the place of the kidnapping of the hijacked horses, I'm sure the killing is waiting for me," he told News Corp Australia.
Dr Ashaab declined the invitation to the meeting.
"I was also asked to ransom only for locally born horses that are distributed among members of the Kaniyat militia."
The Kaniyat militia has been fighting alongside the Libyan National Army (LNA), whose commander is Khalifa Haftar.
They have been battling for control of the country, with the support of Egypt and Dubai.
Dubai has been a backer of the rebel forces, and there were hopes that UAE Prime Minister Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum would intervene.
Sheik Al-Maktoum, a 70-year-old billionaire ruler, owns the Godolphin stable which finally won a Melbourne Cup with gelding Cross Counter in 2018 after decades of trying.
The Queen's private secretary sent a note to Al Shaab Stud after the raid, according to the Racing Post.
"We are most grateful to you for bringing these sad events to the Queen's attention. At this difficult time this message comes to you with Her Majesty's best wishes," the note from the Queen said.
Haftar's forces launched an offensive in April last year and had been gaining ground.
But the UN backed Government of National Accord (GNA) forces had a series of wins this week.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the GNA, claimed that it had won key victories in Surman and Sabratha, towns on the key highway between Tripoli and Tunisia.
That would allow supplies into Tripoli and significantly weaken the Haftar's forces.
Dr Ashaab said: "Five western cities were restored under the control of the Tripoli government.
"The most important of these cities are Surman and Sabratha.
"And now they are planning to cross the city of Tarhuna to recover it from the forces of the criminal Haftar, and we hope that they will be able to release the horses' captives soon."
Golden Slipper placegetter Churchill Downs, once owned by Singleton, and Miss Wyndam, a 15-year Australian mare and direct relative of Phar Lap, were among the horses taken from Al Shaab.
There were concerns about the condition of the horses - some of whom were exported from Australia to boost Libya's fledgling breeding stocks - who have been in the care of rebel leader Abdulrahim al-Kani in Tarhuna, 65km southeast of Tripoli.
At least five horses have died.
Dr Ashaab said al-Kani has been a target of drone bombings but had survived, putting the horses in harm's way.
He said he hoped that the GNA would have a decisive victory so his horses could be returned.
"I hope and pray for that. There is almost no hope after God but these forces," he said.
Libya was plunged into turmoil during the Arab Spring uprising which overthrew dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi.
The oil industry accounts for 69 per cent of the country's exports and remains a key strategic asset in North Africa.
Originally published as Singleton-bred stallion kidnap death plot