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Expat Pair Among Libyan Rebels Fighting For Zawiya

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Expat Pair Among Libyan Rebels Fighting For Zawiya

Expat Pair Among Libyan Rebels Fighting For Zawiya

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro gathered this story today from the rebel frontlines.

LOURDES GARCIA: So I'm standing about two and a half kilometers away from the Gadhafi frontlines. This is the last position that the rebels hold on the road to Zawiyah. And they are getting grad-rocketed every day. Yesterday, three of the rebel fighters were injured but this conflict, at least on this end, is at a stalemate. For now, neither side is advancing.

MUSTAFA ISMAEL: (Arabic language spoken)

GARCIA: Mustafa Ismael sits in the shade, his face is lacquered in sweat. When asked what he's doing here he makes a throat-slitting gesture, saying he wants to kill Gadhafi.

ISMAEL: Gadhafi, call all the people here like cut Gadhafi.

GARCIA: Some of them made it to the western mountains and about three to 400 have formed a fighting force focused on getting their city back. They man this final rebel position near the town of Bir al-Ghanem, about 30 miles into the desert from coastal Zawiyah.

ISMAEL: (Arabic language spoken)

GARCIA: Malik Eshnuk is 21. He's wearing a baseball cap and military fatigues. He's a chemical engineering student.

MALIK ESHNUK: It wasn't really much of a decision. As soon as it became as the summertime, and as we saw that the situation is going to be a long war possibly, and there's still something we can do to help, we said we're going to go.

GARCIA: About two weeks into the rebellion, Mabrouk received a call from Libya with terrible news. One of his brothers' sons had been killed.

MABROUK ESHNUK: And it was really the truth is it was just like a dream, it's not true for a long time

GARCIA: Malik says the death of his cousin, who was his age, hit him hard. They'd become close after Malik spent the summer in Libya a few years ago. At the time, he wasn't impressed with Libyan youth.

ESHNUK: I thought they were like bums. They stayed in the streets, they smoked, they put gel in their hair and that's all they care about. And so I didn't know that they had it in their hearts to stand up and be brave and, you know, risk their lives and stand up for a just cause like this.

GARCIA: After the death of Malik cousin, the family convened in Pittsburg. There were discussions over weeks about who would go to fight in Libya. All the children, Mabrouk says, wanted to come.

ESHNUK: I said, well, I'm like a judge. The one who proves his case, we're going to decide and then we have to put approval by the family.

GARCIA: They've been here for about five days and Malik is having trouble understanding and speaking Arabic. He misses having an Internet connection. Mabrouk is worried about his family at home. But they say they will stay on and fight.

ESHNUK: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News in the western mountains.

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