Former UA player escapes Libya during chaos

PHOENIX - Former University of Arizona forward Mohamed Tangara takes a deep breath when you ask him about Libya.

"Libya was crazy, it was so scary," said Tangara just before a workout in Phoenix.

The 6-foot-10-inch tall Mali native says he started to feel uneasy as the violence increased.

"It was safe where we were at first, then the police station nearby was broken into by rebels and they stole all the guns and started chanting in the streets and then I got concerned," said Tangara.

The former U of A basketball player said he broke a contract in Spain to play basketball in Libya.

"The money was pretty good and so I was like, Libya why not, I'll go," said Tangara.

Nearly two months into his season, the chaos erupted and Tangara says his coach made a quick announcement after practice.

"They canceled the league, totally canceled the league and we were told to go to our rooms because it wasn't safe," said Tangara. "The president of my team said they would provide food and shelter and everything but he told me not to go outside."

Soon after, the fighting intensified and Tangara and his roomate, another player from Chicago, went to the team president for help.

"He (team president) wrote a letter for us and found us a cab, which he had to pay a lot for, and then he told us he is no longer responsible for our lives," said Tangara.

Tangara and his roommate were joined by a soccer player from Morocco and jumped into the cab.

"We couldn't go to Tripoli, it was totally locked down and unsafe so we went to Tunisia," said Tanagara. "It was a long two hour drive, we only had small backpack-like bags with a few clothes and left everything else behind."

The group, he said, also had to hide their cash and cell phones because rebels and armed forces wanted the items.

"I hid my money and phone in my underwear, they wanted the phone so they could communicate with other rebels or fighters or even those in the army."

He said they passed through several checkpoints, which created another problem.

"We're African American, so we're kind of a target, we became the target because the Libyan government was hiring Africans to kill the rebels so they were thinking I was a hired person to do that."

Along the way, Tangara said he would send cryptic messages to his girlfriend in Phoenix. He admits the messages were meant to mislead her so that she didn't panic.

"I was able to use Twitter quite a bit, not e-mail as much and when I sent my girlfriend an email I would just say everything was fine, not to worry and just make sure she was calm, but in reality I was in hell," said Tangara.

He and his friends eventually made it out of Libya unharmed, leaving all of their belongings behind.

"Like I told my girlfriend, I love this country (United States) so much, just so much, that's why I had to come back here."

He now plans to stay with his girlfriend in Phoenix while he sorts out his basketball career.

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