News / Africa

Libyan Rebel Strategy Depends on Outside Military Help

This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011
This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011

Multimedia

Elizabeth Arrott

The admission by French officials that they have supplied weapons to rebels in western Libya could help explain the opposition's recent territorial gain. The advance has been one of the few breakthroughs in the rebels' fight against the government's professional army. 

The rebel leadership has spent four months trying to form a cohesive plan to guide its enthusiastic, but largely amateur fighting force.  The results have been mixed. 

"We need to organize ourselves," said Jalal elGalal, a media spokesman for the Transitional National Council. "We need better armaments and we need a strategic plan to tackle on open plains.  It's difficult, and it's going to be costly.  But it's a price the Libyans are willing to pay."

Stalemate

With the rebels bogged down in Brega in the east and around Misrata, their only advance against government forces appears to be in the western mountains, where the opposition has the advantage of French help and higher ground. ElGalal fears even that momentum could falter.

"The stalemate is going to remain on open ground simply because the armaments they have are much superior to what we have," he said. "Although we have the cause [and] we have the will, we can't match them as far as the armaments are concerned."

French officials say recent weapons and munitions help to the rebels keeps within a U.N. mandate to protect civilians - and does not violate sanctions.

UN embargo

French aid notwithstanding, the United Nations has placed an arms embargo for Libya that has hampered the rebels.

An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011
An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011

On top of that, when government forces withdrew from now opposition-held positions, they took much of the best equipment with them, leaving the rebels to make do with whatever they can find.

At a military camp outside Benghazi, volunteers are becoming expert recyclers.  A group of men huddle atop an old tank.  A few wrenches with a crowbar, the lift of a crane, and off comes the gun turret. In its place, they fit an anti-aircraft gun, which they hope will give their fighters a longer range of attack.  Military liaison Adelrahman Busin points to the ripped out turret, with the gunner's seat beneath painfully exposed, and says it's set to be mounted on a pick-up truck.  

"Nothing goes to waste," said Busin. " Everything is used.  Even that piece that just came off there will be sent to Misrata and used as a cannon."  

Can do spirit

In another room, men are putting the finishing touches on an improvised rocket launcher.  A piece of string secures a tea towel around one end - padding for the fighter's shoulder. Busin points out that the safety is a switch from a child's toy car.

A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011
A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011

"This has been specifically designed for anti-aircraft missiles," he explained. "This was literally made in someone's home.  The actual aircraft missiles - you've seen them, the round ones, that come off helicopters and mounted on top of trucks - they've custom-made a single rocket launcher for those same rockets."

This can-do spirit is seen in other rebel supply lines.  At the Kalha restaurant, owner Sami Shakmak doesn't mind that recent renovations are obscured by a small army of volunteers.

"We found a gap, the army, they haven't got any food," said  Shakmak. "The people on the front line haven't got any food.  So for them to actually stay in their places we needed to feed them.  So we started from there really and it just escalated."

Donations provide relief

With donations from various charities, they manage to turn out more than 20,000 meals a day.

It's this kind of effort that has taken Libya's opposition from political protesters to defenders against a brutal government crackdown, and now a fighting force trying to advance on the capital. But they recognize they need more.  

"I'm hoping the generals here, the chief of staff, the defense minister, are working on something with the military advisers from the international community and I hope something will fall in place pretty soon," said spokesman elGalal.

Even elGalal admits "that might sound a little optimistic."

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid