First Published: 2011-03-23

 

Libyan fighters: rebels without an officer

 

Officers and military personnel who defected to Libyan opposition no longer seen with rebels.

 

Middle East Online

By Sara Hussein - OUTSIDE AJDABIYA, Libya

'There's no one in charge'

Kamal Mohamed stands with rebel fighters atop a sand dune, trying to spot Libyan government forces in the distance. His toes curl over his flip-flops into the sand, he has no weapons.

Nowhere to be seen are the military officers who defected to the rebel side, or the heavy military materiel captured from government forces as they withdrew from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi earlier in the week.

As Mohamed peers south, towards the outskirts of the key town of Ajdabiya, where forces loyal to Moamer Gathafi are arrayed, a small group of rebel fighters set out into the desert, planning an "ambush" of government troops.

Their civilian clothes are starkly visible in the bright sun, dark against the hot desert sand. Some hold Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades, others nothing more than a knife.

Within minutes they are spotted and tank fire begins to land all around, whizzing through the air and thudding down, sending up a spray of sand.

Mohamed and others dash down the sand dune, tripping, landing on each other. He loses a flip-flop in the desperate retreat, scooping it into one hand as he tries to escape the incoming fire.

He smiles apologetically when asked about the wisdom of launching an "ambush" in the middle of the day, with such a lightly-armed force.

"We don't know what we're doing," he admits. "They don't know about military strategy, they are just trying to help."

Mohamed, a 31-year-old plumber, is in even worse a position than many of the young men gathered on the so-called front -- he lacks any sort of weapon.

"I'm waiting for someone to be killed, then I'll take whatever he has and try to use it."

Among the rag-tag group of rebels gathering each day outside Ajdabiya, officers and military personnel who defected to the opposition are noticeable by the absence.

"You can see, it's only kids, and everyone is running everywhere he wants. It's not really organised," says 54-year-old Jamal Zelitny, an oil engineer carrying a Kalashnikov he says he has yet to fire.

"They need someone to organise them. The kids just take things into their own hands before taking advice from the people who are in charge."

Also noticeably absent from the frontline rebel position is any of the heavy military materiel that the opposition forces have captured in recent weeks, including tanks and armoured vehicles.

Instead, when Gathafi forces open fire with tanks and heavy artillery, the young men flee in pick-up trucks and ordinary cars. In one retreat, at least five are seriously wounded. Two appear to be dead.

Khaled al-Sayeh, the outgoing spokesman for the rebel's military council, says the opposition forces are trying to "minimise casualties" to their side, but that the young rebels are difficult to control.

They are there "against the better judgement of a lot of people," he said.

"They are mostly from the area of Ajdabiya and are very anxious to get to their loved ones and the control over them has been quite difficult."

But on the frontline, Mohamed says he is eager for leadership and wants to know why military officers who have defected to the opposition are nowhere to be seen.

"We're angry, we don't understand. We don't have any communications with them," he said, after a second mad dash away from a volley of tank fire.

"We want commanders, we want advice, we don't know what we're doing. There's no one responsible here, there's no one in charge."

Among some rebel fighters, Zelitny included, there is faith that opposition military forces are carrying out their own "secret operations."

But incoming military council spokesman, Air Force colonel Ahmed Bani, denies that the professional military opposition are acting independently.

"We are absolutely not working separately," he said. "We are preparing ourselves now for the big battle, in terms of weapons, in terms of strategy," he said, declining to give any specifics on preparations or attack plans.

He also refuses to comment on the location of captured heavy military materiel, insisting only that it will be used when appropriate.

But Bani admits that there is no communication with the young men heading to the front each day, where enthusiasm for the fight remains high despite the impossible odds.

"It's difficult," Zelitny says. "But I'll keep coming here until Gathafi's gone."

 

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Syrian army retakes rebel-held Aleppo district

UN Libya envoy warns against ‘political impasse’

Morocco finally adopts Amazigh as official language

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump

Iranian, Italian ships hold manoeuvres in Strait of Hormuz

Gunmen kill three Egypt policemen, civilian in Sinai

Turkey says 32,000 coup suspects awaiting trial

Paris to host international meeting on Libya

Etihad plane in emergency landing in Abu Dhabi

Struggling Saudi Oger lays off 1,300 staff

Israel ex-PM to serve 27 months for graft

Syrian kids return to school in Manbij

World Bank releases $300 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Iranian FM in Ankara for Syria talks

Israeli ex-president Peres dies

Oil prices post marginal gains

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault

Iran's Ahmadinejad says will not run for president

Boris Johnson dismisses Erdogan goat poem as 'trivia'

Turkey dismisses 87 spy agency staff over failed coup

Egypt recovers sunken boat, more bodies

Israel's Peres 'fighting for his life'

Bombings kill at least seventeen in Baghdad

Netanyahu chooses diplomacy in US election

Iran sets conditions for joining terror finance taskforce

Who is the destroyer of Timbuktu shrines?

Israel to charge Lieberman party officials in graft probe

Egypt detains owner of capsized migrant vessel

Countless bombings in Baghdad’s Karrada since 2003 US-led invasion

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime