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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid