Libyan Forces Loyal To Gadhafi Retake Brega
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have attacked a key oil port that's about 120 miles away from the rebel-held city of Benghazi. There are reports of aerial bombings of a town near the port of Brega - a town with large weapons depots. Rebels in eastern Libya fear this is the start of a broader offensive against towns that have thrown off Gadhafi's rule. In Benghazi, hundreds of young men say they're going to that port and beyond to help with the fight. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Benghazi.
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: A long line of new recruits give their blood type, name and number to an army officer who writes the information down on a sheet of paper. The young men here are signing up for battle, they say. This is a makeshift training camp. The military have taken over the courtyard of a school and are now using it to form units for battle.
Mohammed Khalifa is a 35 year old English teacher who's among the volunteers.
Mr. MOHAMMED KHALIFA: We will fight for freedom and honor, to be free. Our country.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some men here have no military training at all, and others have come all the way from Egypt to join the fight, like Ahmed Mohammed a computer engineer.
Mr. AHMED MOHAMMED: (Through translator) All the Arab dictators are traitors. I've come here to be with my brothers. Libya has been invaded by mercenaries sent by Gadhafi. I protested against Mubarak in Egypt. And now I am here. Our blood is their blood.
Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: About 50 men line up in neat rows. They are told to stand to attention by a portly middle-aged man in a sweater vest. A six-month military service is mandatory in Libya and most of the volunteers have some training. They gamely stand at attention in their ill-matched clothes. Suddenly a fight breaks out.
Unidentified Mane #4: (Yelling in foreign language)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Two young men dressed in fatigues with scarves around their heads scream that the military is wasting time. They are killing us in Brega, one shouts. While you are having the men line up people are dying on the front line, says another. We need weapons, we need to go now. We need to fight, they say.
Gadhafi's forces are pushing out east from his stronghold and hometown of Sirte, halfway between Benghazi and the capital Tripoli. There are reports of fighting in Brega and there have been attacks on the next town over - Adjadabia. Adjadabia is key, because it holds a vast weapons depot that can keep the eastern rebels equipped.
Eastern Libya had been in the control of pro-democracy rebels for 10 days now and they've been trying to organize a fighting force to defend themselves. But the fact is this new push by Gadhafi's men has caught them seemingly ill prepared.
Unidentified Man #5: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Back at the training camp, the military seemed confused, arguing for calm. But it's the youth that are running this show. Mahmoud Albuyasir is among them.
Mr. MAHMOUD ALBUYASIR: We are moving now to Adjadabia and then to Tripoli to fight Gadhafi, inshallah. And we have training there four days ago. We are training and they - all of them there are ready. They can use machine guns. They can use bombs, everything.
Unidentified Man #6: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: After a while a commander addresses the assembled men over a loudspeaker. We will give guns to those who know how to use them, he says. Go and fight. For those who still need training, he adds, stay behind and we'll help you. Many of the young men marched off into battle. They say they're willing to die for their cause.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Benghazi.
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