Qaddafi bombs oil facility in blow to Libya's oil infrastructure
A rebel position at Libya’s Ras Lanuf came under withering fire today as Muammar Qaddafi’s forces set an oil tank ablaze at a key export terminal.
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Qaddafi’s fighters have appeared to prevail in a number of recent skirmishes, though the flat propaganda his government has been issuing makes it difficult to know the extent of his side's casualties.Skip to next paragraph
Pro-Qaddafi forces show firepower
A measure of Qaddafi’s firepower was given yesterday evening. Then, a group of perhaps 50 enthusiastic militiamen sought to push on to the government-held town of Bin Jawwad, which many of the young fighters view as the gateway to Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.
After charging ahead of a fixed position partially held by soldiers who have defected to the rebel side, mortars hit the small group. They pushed on, and were lit up again by rocket-fire and RPGs, with 27 casualties, a number of the young men having lost limbs.
“We need to organize better, but the youth are impatient,” says Ali Hussein Jumaah, a fighter who served nine years in prison here for the crime of possessing Islamist literature and who didn’t join the advance. “They need to understand that the enemy can see us, but they’re hidden in the desert and in houses and we can’t really see them.”
Two of the men who participated in the charge say that a number of casualties were left behind and presumed dead, but couldn’t estimate their number. “We have to go back, we’re going back tonight,” says Mahdi, a burly young man speaking at Ras Lanuf’s hospital today. “Our comrades are still there.”
Shortly after that conversation, young men like Mahdi appeared to make good on that promise. Rebels from Ras Lanuf again pushed west toward Bin Jawwad, apparently sparking the pro-Qaddafi barrage that hit the oil terminal.
Rebels lack organization
In Benghazi, about 150 miles east, civilian leaders of the rebellion broadcast a statement to supporters that claimed Bin Jawwad had been retaken, but there was no evidence of that available closer to the battlefield. Similar claims were made yesterday that turned out to be false.
There are few obvious signs of organization and leadership among the rebels on the front lines just west of Ras Lanuf. Col. Masoud Mohammed el-Abdali, a commander of regular forces working with the rebellion on the front, says that soldiers have been deployed in a ring around the area out in the desert, by way of explaining why his men aren’t visible.
But his men don’t seem to be working with the young gunmen who have born the brunt of the casualties so far, and his soldiers don’t appear to have participated in any of the engagements the militia has instigated.
So far, it’s the young, untrained men who have propelled this rebellion to successes against Qaddafi’s 41-year-rule. But now they’re coming up against determined and fierce resistance.
“We need to raise up our voices so the world can see what’s being done to us,” says Abdel Hamid el-Huti, standing next to the hospital bed of his son Mustafa, who was badly wounded in the fighting near Bin Jawwad on Tuesday. “I’m proud of my son for being in the front line, and if I have to lose him so be it. Only God and our own spirit can stop Qaddafi now.”
[Editor's note: The original headline of this article was changed after publication because it misstated what was bombed.]