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* Poised for assault on key town, but lack bullets
* Rebels pass time cleaning guns waiting for ammunition
By Michael Georgy
KABAW, Libya, Aug 2 Libyan rebels surrounding
Muammar Gaddafi's last major stronghold in the Western Mountains
region are hungry for the kill. There's just one problem -- not
After weeks of planning, the rebels launched a new offensive
in the region, capturing several towns and villages. But the
biggest prize, Tiji, remains elusive for a simple reason
fighters like Jumaa Muhammad are all too familiar with.
"We could not go any further. We ran out of ammunition,"
said Muhammad, who took on soldiers with heavy weapons with only
28 bullets for his AK-47 assault rifle.
"Who knows when more will arrive?"
The rebels of Libya's Western Mountains have plenty of
spirit and determination. But frustrations are rising over
inadequate supplies, inferior weapons and what they call neglect
by the West.
Capturing Tiji would be a major boost for the rebels, who in
this part of Libya, at least, appear to have managed to set
aside factionalism and ethnic differences to coordinate a major
Control of Tiji could give rebels access to a highway to
that leads to Tripoli. They encircled Tifi days ago had to put
the brakes on the operation when there was little left to fire
at government forces, and have since been unable to advance.
Muhammad and other fighters unleashed their weapons, then
had to retreat to a mountain ridge where they keep a close eye
on Tiji from a tiny cement lookout post in the town of Kabaw.
Rebels pass the time cleaning their weapons, or chatting,
until fresh ammunition arrives, hoping Gaddafi's men don't fire
more Grad missiles at them from Tiji.
About 25 pound the earth a few feet away every day, a
reminder of the army's superior firepower.
Because they lack experience, rebels often fire off many
rounds in all directions during battles, instead of choosing
targets carefully, wasting bullets in the process.
Ammunition from fellow rebels in the east of Libya comes
only about once a month, so they have to improvise to survive.
"It's taking too long to get ammunition. Units from
different villages have to borrow ammunition from each other
because there is not enough to go around," said Tarek Zanbou, a
former intelligence officer under Gaddafi who joined the rebel
He and other rebel officials don't understand why NATO
doesn't step up air strikes to help the rebels.
"Yesterday hundreds of Gaddafi's men were on a main street
in Tiji. We gave them (NATO) the coordinates and they didn't do
anything," he said.
Rebels firmly believe that "God is on our side" in the war
against Gaddafi. But few believe victory will be possible
without the bare essentials, like bullets.
"We just won't be able to reach Tripoli if this keeps
happening," said rebel Muhammad Ramadan, as he walked past a
mangled piece of metal from one of Gaddafi's rockets on the
mountain ridge and a wall drawing calling for a free Libya.
(Editing by David Lewis and Mark Heinrich)
(editing by Mark Heinrich)