Libya's Retreating Rebels Dogged By Confusion Militarily, rebel fighters in eastern Libya are now effectively back to where they were when Western airstrikes began 12 days ago. Amid the retreat, tense and tired fighters seem unsure of what will come next. One even accused commanders of deceiving them.
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Libya's Retreating Rebels Dogged By Confusion

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Libya's Retreating Rebels Dogged By Confusion

Libya's Retreating Rebels Dogged By Confusion

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Eric Westervelt was with them, and as he reports, the rebels have now been pushed back to where they were 12 days ago when the Western airstrikes began.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Tense, worried and tired rebel fighters massed at the western gate of the small oil town of Brega today, while the distant rumble of approaching mortar and artillery fire grew closer. Ali Jamal bin Hassouna, who had just retreated from the nearby town of Ras Lanuf, waved his arms and anxiously told a group of fellow fighters that what amounts to their leadership had deceived them.

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language)

WESTERVELT: The rebel commanders are betraying us, he shouts. They told us the ammunition we had was enough so we moved forward. But it wasn't enough. They made us go into the fighting unprepared. They're playing a dirty game, he says. A fellow fighter asked, are you sure about this? Are you sure? To which bin Hassouna shouts, yes, yes.

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language)

WESTERVELT: I swear it's true. You haven't seen what I've seen, Hassouna says. Our people are getting slaughtered before our eyes up there. Soon, several ambulances with wounded fighters tear down the road toward the nearby roadside clinic.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBULANCE)

WESTERVELT: Twenty-six-year-old Mohammed Adrees fled Ras Lanuf for Brega early today.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language)

WESTERVELT: This afternoon, mortar and artillery fire from Gadhafi loyalists edged closer and rebel fighters sounded the retreat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING)

WESTERVELT: Once again today, here in Brega, they're pulling back. Commanders giving the sign for people to head on up the road further east, as you can hear the thump, thump of Colonel Gadhafi's heavy artillery heading this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES)

WESTERVELT: Soon, both lanes are jammed with rebel vehicles packed with fighters and their gear racing east toward Ajdabiya. Rebels gathered at the edge of that city. Many seemed confused and unsure what would come next.

BLOCK: (Speaking foreign language)

WESTERVELT: Eric Westervelt, NPR News, in eastern Libya.

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