(Repeats story first issued Oct 18, no change to text)
By Barry Malone
BANI WALID Oct 18 "I used to drive a 1990
Mazda," the young Libyan revolutionary says through child-like
giggles, hurtling into the heart of battle at the wheel of a new
4-by-4 looted from slain soldiers of Muammar Gaddafi. "Look at
But there was to be no more fighting for Ali that day. Bani
Walid, one of only two towns in Libya that had still been
resisting the men who toppled one of the world's most
recognisable leaders, had fallen.
The 23-year-old could not believe his eyes as he pulled the
car into the town's central square.
Hundreds of fighters, most of them young men like himself,
ran around streets they had tried to reach for six weeks,
shouting, singing, and calling out, "God is greatest".
They unleashed thousands of celebratory bullets into the air
with machine-guns and a few guffawing fighters even recklessly
sent rocket-propelled grenades whizzing off into the distance.
Several men spun anti-aircraft guns around and around,
filling the skies with smoke and flames and ammo as another
fighter nearby sent a car skidding in circles until, finally, he
flipped it over on its roof.
"Hey, Gaddafi! Look at this! Screw you, Gaddafi!" a young
fighter screamed as he ran past.
Ali stood with his hands on his head in amazement. "Crazy
boys," he shouted, laughing.
Then, through the wild scene, a man dressed in medical
He had come from one of the nearby field hospitals where,
for weeks, they have been treating men hit by sniper fire,
fighters with limbs blown off, friends unrecognisable after
mortar attacks -- many of whom did not make it.
The man wandered for a while, wide-eyed with shock and
seeming unsure of which direction to go, before he saw a fighter
that he knew. He stumbled into his arms and both of them started
Ali went quiet and then looked away.
The fighters from the various regional rebel brigades who
are now loyal to Libya's interim government, the National
Transitional Council, have gone through a complex wave of
emotions since taking up arms against Gaddafi just eight months
ago and changing their country forever.
With the final pro-Gaddafi holdout towns now falling, they
are wondering if it has also changed their futures.
WORRYING AND WAITING
Ali, and others like him, will often talk openly about their
experiences, the family and friends they've lost and the men --
in some cases the many men -- who they have killed.
Sometimes they laugh nervously as they tell the often
horrible tales, sometimes they laugh genuinely and, at other
times, they can darken suddenly.
"I worry about some of us. That we might get sick," Ali
said, tapping his head. "Psychologically."
He sometimes erupted into laughter as he described
battlefield incidents in which he had killed Gaddafi soldiers
and snipers with RPG and anti-aircraft fire. But, "I don't like
the killing," he said.
The spontaneous joy that deafened Bani Walid as anti-Gaddafi
fighters surged into its square on Monday and Tuesday, was in
part provoked by a hope that things will now be better for those
But there is some bitterness as well as hope in their ranks,
and some fighters have looted in pro-Gaddafi towns far from
their own homes, though others have resisted.
"We never had anything but we were never afraid of Gaddafi.
This generation had no fear," 26-year-old Abdul shouted to
Reuters over the noise of the celebrations.
"Maybe our fathers did, maybe my grandfather. But we were
always going to throw him out. Always. Because we wanted more."
The interim leaders have made promises to the men whose
fighting put them in power, with plans to recruit some into the
military, some into the police and to send others to colleges.
But, with the messy business of forming a government, some
are already frustrated and worried that the older men at the top
tables may soon forget about them.
As the inevitable jostling for power moves into full
post-revolution flight, the fighters wait.
"It could take a long time to build a new country," Ali
said. "Maybe that is what our generation will do, for our
children. For me, I don't know. I might go to Canada. And come
back when Libya is like that."
Mustafa, a 26-year-old fighter, who had jumped from the back
of a pick-up truck where he had been firing anti-aircraft
volleys into the air, approached with a big grin.
"How is my English?" he asked. "Gaddafi wouldn't let most
Libyans learn. He didn't want us to be educated or go out into
the outside world. Now young Libyans want all of those things."
Neighbouring Tunisia's standard of living is often mentioned
with envy and a lot of the young men say they know well that, in
a country with oil riches and just 6 million people, there is
more to go around.
"But it's not that. It's more. Nobody wanted to fight but,
in my town, it was for freedom," Ali said, adjusting the
touch-screen controls in the Gaddafi military car now owned by
his brigade as he drove out of Bani Walid later.
"In the mountains, there were 20 of us fighting and only two
of us made it home. This car? I would burn it and this whole
world and everything I have in it to bring them back."
(Editing by Jon Boyle)