Libyan Rebels Fight To Maintain Control Of Gualish

Jul 14, 2011
Originally published on July 14, 2011 6:56 am
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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

LOUISE KELLY: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins the rebels as they made their way to the frontline.

LOURDES GARCIA: Word spread like wildfire around Zintan, the main garrison town in the western mountains. Gadhafi's forces had retaken Gualish.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

GARCIA: Almost immediately, dozens of gars crowded into the only working gas station, young men in bandanas greeting friends and relatives.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GARCIA: The scene is pretty extraordinary here in Zintan. Everyone has come with their cars, sedans, pickup trucks; weapons and people stuffed in everyway they can, to get gas and then head straight to the front.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE IGNITION)

GARCIA: Abdul Fatah has 12 young men sitting on the back of his truck, which also is carrying a mound of Katyusha rockets.

ABDUL FATAH: (Arabic language spoken)

GARCIA: Speeding along heading into battle are also two brothers and their friend. They're all from Zintan but they've studied in the U.K. at some point. Twenty- year-old Khalid is painfully slender. He has black and white bandana raffishly tied around his hair and a long beard. Like many young men heading into danger, he's filled with bravado.

KHALID: Say anything happen in the western mountain. Anything happen here because Zintan, it's like the NATO for western mountains, yeah. They don't fall back, you know, we just move ahead. Where as the Gadhafi forces, there. Kick their butts and kick them away.

GARCIA: His brother Mohammed, who is driving the car at what feels like warp speed, is pumped up. He says fighting makes him feel more alive than he's ever felt before.

MOHAMMED: I love this life.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MOHAMMED: It's a great thing, you know, to do. It's a great cause to fight for.

GARCIA: Ahmed, the friend, was injured in an earlier battle. His brother is at a hospital in Tunisia recovering from a bullet wound to the stomach. His other brother is already at the front, which is why he's headed there now.

MOHAMMED: It's a shame on me to stay in the house and still in there. I'm just carrying a very light weapon, as you can see. I'll do my best. I mean I'll do my best, even by this gun.

GARCIA: They get quieter as they get closer to the frontline.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

GARCIA: But the blowback of this conflict is being felt, not only by the fighters, but by families, children, old people, women. And today, they are terrified.

ABDUL SALAM RUAWI: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Mohammed is now mournful. Another battle that tread over ground, already won.

MOHAMMED: Eight people is quite a big number, especially for nothing. You know?

GARCIA: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News in the western mountains. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.