NEAR TIJI, Libya (Reuters) - The rebel seethed as a bulldozer arrived to build a sand bank to protect rebels in Libya’s Western Mountain region from nearby government forces.
“It’s too late. Our leaders are trying to show they care about us but it’s too late,” said the fighter, Munir Marah, standing beside what was left of a Grad missile that killed three of his comrades early Wednesday.
“If they had sent the bulldozer earlier they might have still been alive. (Our leaders) are indecisive and divided. It takes them a long time to do simple things,” Marah said.
The rebels of Libya’s Western Mountains need effective leadership more than ever during a critical juncture in their bid to clear out forces loyal to Gaddafi.
They have surrounded the strategic town of Tiji, his last major stronghold in the plains below the Western Mountains, but are short on ammunition, weapons and military training.
Rebel military leaders had appeared to overcome factionalism and ethnic differences when they captured several towns and villages in a new offensive in the Western Mountains.
But those problems are re-emerging, rebels say, undermining efforts to seize Tiji, a pro-Gaddafi town which has been encircled for days.
“We really want to attack Gaddafi’s men especially after our three comrades were killed,” said rebel Muhammad Sasi, who spent most of Wednesday sleeping under his tank.
“(But) our leaders don’t seem to be able to make decisions.”
Rebels say there are hundreds of government forces in Tiji, including ones in pick-up trucks that drove close to the spot where the three men died in the open desert to conduct a reconnaissance mission after the missiles were fired.
The rebels, for their part, have been geared up to fight, getting their AK-47 assault rifles ready for battle, and yelling Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) to give themselves courage.
But they are losing patience, sitting idle in the cruel heat wondering when their leaders will order the charge to Tiji down a single paved road and sand lanes with little or no cover.
Fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has made the men more irritable.
A rebel named Omar, a Libyan living in Europe who returned to fight, is so fed up he is close to quitting the revolution.
“This is a joke. It feels like every man for himself. The military leaders are arguing among themselves,” said Omar, as another rebel cannibalized parts of a pick-up truck that was hit by a missile.
“When a commander from one village or town wants weapons from another he doesn’t always get it because of rivalries and divisions. This is Libya. This is how it works.”
Capturing Tiji would give the rebels access to a highway that leads to the capital Tripoli. But given the chaos in the rebel camp, it’s hard to imagine that will happen anytime soon.
“The men are getting so anxious they are talking about just mobilizing on their own. They are sick and tired of this,” said Izzidine Shalbak, a 40-year-old rebel.
Editing by David Lewis and Gareth Jones