News / Africa

Libyan Opposition Gives War Lessons to Youth

New recruits listen as a training instructor schools them in disassembling, cleaning, and use of AK47 automatic weapons, at a rebel forces training camp in Benghazi, Libya, April 5, 2011
New recruits listen as a training instructor schools them in disassembling, cleaning, and use of AK47 automatic weapons, at a rebel forces training camp in Benghazi, Libya, April 5, 2011

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Scott Bobb

The uprising against the 41-year rule of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began peacefully. But when government troops used force to suppress the demonstrations, they escalated into what increasingly looks like a civil war. Opposition forces, based mostly in the east, are fighting the much better-equipped and better-trained Gadhafi troops. But opposition leaders are trying to change that.

Training

It is midday at the artillery practice range in Jarutha, 20 kilometers outside Benghazi. Volunteers opposed to the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are learning to shoot anti-aircraft guns.

The aging gun jams after a few rounds, underscoring one of the opposition's major problems, a lack of effective heavy weapons to counter Colonel Gadhafi's tanks and warplanes.

The volunteers, dressed mostly in jeans and shirts, a few with camouflage fatigues, muster to the commands of the drill sergeant.



Mustafa Sagisli commands this training unit. He is a computer engineer who owns a small business in Benghazi, but he closed it to join the resistance. He says the opposition's biggest challenges are a lack of organization and a lack of equipment.

"We need to be supplied with weapons in order to confront Gadhafi's regime," said Sagisli.  "They have weapons and they have tanks. They are much better equipped than us."

At the 7th of April Camp on the outskirts of Benghazi, volunteers come every day to train on weapons in the rebels' arsenal.

They practice assembling and disassembling the type of guns other rebels are using at the front.

Pursuing freedom

Ramadan Korehol, a medical student, is eager to finish his training so he can go to the front. He says sometimes one has to fight in order to be free.

"I am prepared to give up my life for freedom, for my country and to do away with the government of the dictator Gadhafi," said Korehol.

Yusef Sharif was a master-sergeant in the Libyan army. Now he trains civilians who call themselves revolutionaries. He says they receive only a few weeks training, but that is enough because they are committed.

"We don't have any problems… because all these young guys are educated and some have high academic qualifications," noted Sharif.  "They learn quickly and we try to teach them precisely how to use these small weapons."

Back at the shooting range, the volunteers are drilling under the direction of a military officer.

They count on their dedication to the struggle to make up for their lack of experience.

Revolution

Commander Sagisli says the volunteers camp here for three days to get accustomed to life in the field. He says this is not a civil war but rather a revolution.

"I started from the first day of the revolution," explained Sagisli.  "It started as a peaceful demonstration. I started with a laptop on my shoulder. And I ended up with a gun on my shoulder."

He says it will be the same for these young men. When Colonel Gadhafi is defeated, he says, they will go back to their studies, but for now we all must shoulder the much heavier tools of war.

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