March 6, 2011 / 1:51 PM / 8 years ago

On Libyan front, zeal compensates for inexperience

RAS LANUF, Libya (Reuters) - The rebel fighters battling Muammar Gaddafi in Libya lack training but not enthusiasm. They credit their success so far to a mix of revolutionary zeal and divine intervention.

“We are not an organized army. We don’t use military tactics,” said Bashir Abdul Gadir, a former colonel in Gaddafi’s army now serving as an officer in the rebel force seeking to end his four decades in power. “Our tactics are revolutionary. We don’t take death into account,” he said.

Most of the rebels are young, with little military training. A few are armed only with knives. There appears to be little concept of discipline in their ranks.

Yet the rebels have secured control of a string of cities across the Libyan coast, stretching from the border with Egypt to Ras Lanuf, 660 km (410 miles) east of Tripoli — the capital still held by Gaddafi.

They appeared to suffer their first setback on Sunday, driven back eastwards by Gaddafi forces from the town of Bin Jawad, west of Ras Lanuf.

“We don’t take orders from anyone, only God, who will give us victory. We took Benghazi, Dirna, Tobrouk, and Al Bayda, without a military plan, it was God,” said young rebel fighter Ali Faituri, sat in a pick up truck with a large machinegun.

Faituri is typical of many of the enthusiastic young men who appear to move without formal orders, instead advancing on plans passed between rebels by word of mouth or mobile phone, or simply joining in the action wherever they find it.


“We hear by phone from people in towns along the way that they need help. We come, free them, they join us, and we move on,” said Alaadine Omran, 26, a rebel volunteer, who helps with logistics and the wounded.

Typically before rebel movements, a group takes the lead ahead, and others then join without asking where they are going or what they are doing beyond “getting rid of the dog Gaddafi.”

Tyres screech as vehicles spin round to join the charge, mostly pick up trucks loaded with men, rifles and machineguns. Most trucks are spray painted with slogans such as “rebel army” or “people’s army.”

“We watch the news, ask other youths to find out where the clashes are and go to help our brothers,” said rebel civilian volunteer Abdullah Shouaib, 27.

The collapse of Gaddafi’s control in the east has left his opponents with access to abandoned military bases, vehicles and weapons.

The pro-Gaddafi security forces are a chaotic mix of regular troops and fighters in mismatched uniforms and green bandanas, heavily armed and, analysts say, motivated by the fear of rebel retribution if Gaddafi falls.

But they appear to be struggling to re-organize after units defected, and there is also a question mark over the loyalty of the air force, with rebels saying most of their bombing runs in the east fall just short of the target.

Although the rebel forces include professional soldiers as well as volunteers who have registered at rebel-held bases and received some training, they appear to be in the minority.

In Benghazi, Libya’s second city, rebels have formed a military council, from whom some rebels at the front line said they took orders.

“We went to Benghazi and they registered our names and we formed a brigade,” said Adem Faraj, labeling others who had not registered “hangers on.”

“There’s not been enough time to include them formally. But our cause is the same,” he said. Rebel officer Abdul Gadir said: “This is the nature of the people’s revolution. You can’t control it. Only 10 percent of us are professional soldiers.”

Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Algiers; editing by Tom Perry and Philippa Fletcher

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