We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Wed 9 Mar 2011 04:49 PM

Font Size

- Aa +

Anti-Gaddafi rebels dig in during tense stand-off

Libyan planes screech over front line as rebels fight to resupply frontline forces

Anti-Gaddafi rebels dig in during tense stand-off
Rebel fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank and aircraft weapons
Anti-Gaddafi rebels dig in during tense stand-off
Rebel fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank and aircraft weapons
Anti-Gaddafi rebels dig in during tense stand-off
Rebel fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank and aircraft weapons
Anti-Gaddafi rebels dig in during tense stand-off
Rebel fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank and aircraft weapons

Rebels staged periodic hit-and-run attacks on dug-in forces
loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the east of the country on Wednesday
and resupplied their front line with guns and ammunition.

A warplane circled a rebel checkpoint at the main gate to
the rebel-held oil town of Ras Lanuf which has sustained repeated air strikes
in the past days.

There were six anti-aircraft guns, two mortar launchers and
boxes of ammunition at the gate waiting to go forward. One fighter was
carefully assembling home-made bombs with small fuses and tins of TNT
explosive.

"We're in a defensive position right now because of the
heavy artillery ahead. We moved forward another 5km," rebel Colonel Masoud
Mohammed.

The threat of heavy artillery and the defensive position was
repeated by Colonel Bashir Abdul Qadr.

Rebel fighters were buoyed by three victories as they
stormed west after forcing Gaddafi troops to flee the city of Benghazi
mid-February, but the push to take the leader's hometown of Sirte was stopped
in its tracks by planes and tanks.

Rebel fighters are armed with heavy machine guns, rocket
propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank and aircraft weapons, often mounted
on 4x4 pick-up trucks. But Gaddafi has deployed warplanes and heavy armour
against his rivals.

On Wednesday, there was one rebel army truck mounted with a
multiple rocket launcher near the front, which lies along a barren stretch of
desert and scrub roughly 550km east of Tripoli between the towns of Bin Jawad
and Ras Lanuf.

Another two sources, unarmed rebel volunteers, said there
had been minor skirmishes at the front line at dawn, but no major military
confrontations.

A rebel coordinator was giving instructions to fighters who
had been armed with heat-seeking Sam 7 missiles: "Fire your missile, then
fall back."

The screech of Libyan warplanes high overhead did not
trigger the frenzy of automatic rifle fire from the rebels which it has done in
the past days as inexperienced youths became inured to the sounds of the
battlefield.

There was plenty of frustration expressed at the West's caution
about installing a no-fly zone to ground Gaddafi's warplanes which would stop
air strikes and prevent his commanders from ferrying troops by air.

"I really wish we had a no-fly zone. The foreign powers
must have a deal with Gaddafi over oil," said Nasr Shelmieh.

"They had a no-fly zone in Iraq. Why is Gaddafi their
darling and Saddam Hussein was not?" olunteer Naji Saleh said near Ras
Lanuf, referring to the air exclusion zone imposed on Iraq for more than a
decade.

"There's much more discipline," one witness said
of the rebel fighters. "Much less show off shooting too."

In one group, some rebels had just read out a message from
unnamed Islamic scholars. The scholars said: "Protect the secrecy of our
plans and movements from journalists ... We confirm the importance of orders in
the field."

Their message was: "We forbid random movement and
firing," adding: "You must obey orders in the field."

The rebels were forbidding journalists from moving along to
the front line.

In the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second
city where the uprising started in mid-February, loudspeakers at the court
house headquarters beseeched God to protect "revolutionary fighters in
Zawiyah".

The body of a Benghazi man killed in fighting around the oil
town of Ras Lanuf while fighting arrived from the front and his coffin was
placed before the courthouse where about 400 people were gathered.

Women ululated, often done in celebrations. "This is a
kind of celebration, because he died in God's service," said Faraj Saber,
a business consultant, 48.

There was a protest of about 50 children in front of the
courthouse, some with their mothers.

One of the children read a speech from the first floor
window of the courthouse.

"Libya has always been fearless and determined in the
eyes of her enemies," the child said, adding: "Libya flies its flag
with pride and freedom in the face of darkness ... We will not surrender. We
will die with honour."

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.