01 July 2011

Update on Libya's Other Front

The fighting from Benghazi to Tripoli is dominating the news, but the western front of Libya's insurgency is seeing a lot more activity.

"The power of Kadafi doesn't depend on his weapons," Col. Mokhtar Milad Fernana, commander of rebel forces in western Libya, said in an interview Thursday. "He uses civilians as shields to protect himself."

Although the fighting on the front in eastern Libya has ground to a stalemate, rebels in the mountainous region in the west appear to be gaining momentum.

Those rebels say they are using fresh recruits, many from other parts of the country, and weapons they've captured to fight Kadafi's forces. They say they are attacking on three fronts: Bir Ghanam, which lies on flatlands at the northern edge of rebel territory; to the west beyond the town of Kikla toward Gharyan; and to the south toward the military base at Tawama.

They have transformed a long stretch of highway into a makeshift runway, with markings for airplanes, and have already landed one plane as a test.

The rebel forces were bolstered by the recent capture of a large caches of government weapons near Zintan, where their unified command is based. However, Fernana denied that his men had received weapons from France, as claimed by French officials Wednesday.

"Whoever gave us these arms should come here and tell us where he put them," he said.

One fighter in Bir Ghanam carried what appeared to be a new Belgian-made assault rifle — a type increasingly common among rebels — that he said came from a crate of weapons labeled "Qatar," the Arabian Peninsula kingdom that wholeheartedly supports the effort to oust Kadafi.

Here's the area of operations we're talking about

View Larger Map

Yes, it's more "south" than "west", but roll with it...

By: Brant

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