Benghazi braces as morale sinks

2011-03-13 20:23

Benghazi - Fear is gripping Benghazi, the stronghold of the rebellion against the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, and morale sinking fast as residents brace for possible attacks by loyalists.

"The euphoria is gone," said grim-faced Mohammed Gepsi, a former civil servant, standing outside the headquarters of the anti-Gaddafi uprising in the eastern Mediterranean city.

"We are afraid of what will happen next, afraid of bombardments," he said.

Gaddafi loyalists, using air strikes and heavy artillery, are pushing a fierce offensive against the rebels and have driven them out of several cities and towns along the coast to the west.

On Sunday fighters, most of them young, were seen retreating from the eastern town of Brega towards Ajdabiya, 80km away, the gateway to Benghazi and the rebel-held border city of Tobruk.

Gaddafi forces may still be 250km away from Benghazi, but in the city the mood is sombre and morale slipping away like quicksand.

"The mood has changed" after the fall of Brega and the key oil city of Ras Lanuf this week, said Gepsi.

Help in the mosques

"The young are still determined to fight but older people, mothers and fathers, are afraid for their children," he said.

Fatma Mufta agrees. "We are afraid of the bombardments. We are afraid of Gaddafi's forces," she said, as she shopped for food in a supermarket with her husband and her daughter.

"We live near the airport and Gaddafi can hit it," she said.

She is not afraid of running out of food or water, even if many shops in Benghazi are shuttered, Mufta added.

"We can get help in the mosques. They give milk free of charge as well as nappies for babies."

Mufta's 17-year-old daughter has been stuck at home since the uprising started a month ago and is bored, so she spends her time watching the news on Arab satellite channels and hoping her university will reopen soon.

On the seafront, near the offices of the rebel-proclaimed transitional national council, some insist that the outgunned insurgents have not been crushed.

"Western nations will help us," said Abdul Salam el-Amari.

Arab League

"With the help of God, and the imposition of a no-fly zone, we will be back on top of things," he said, his 10-year-old daughter next to him with the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag painted on her face.

The Arab League on Saturday urged the United Nations Security Council to take steps to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to ground Gaddafi's warplanes - a move which has divided the international community.

Ahmed, an oil executive, is in denial, like many Libyans who refuse to accept the gains made this past week by Gaddafi's forces.

"Our forces are pulling out of Brega for tactical reasons. We have not been defeated," he said.

Imam Bughaidis, an opposition activist, went further, saying the rebels have put in place a "military defence" for Benghazi.

"Many rebels are staying in Benghazi", she said, adding that "weapons" are flowing into the city.

Sleeper cells

""We know that Gaddafi has sleeper cells in Benghazi. We know where they are and they are constantly under surveillance," she added.

Nearby a crowd had formed around a man trying to fire up morale.

"We must kill all the assassins. We must kill all the Gaddafi loyalists in the city," he shouted.

A man in the crowd rebuked him: "We are not like Gaddafi. We don't kill people. We put them in jail."

On the coastal road to Ajdabiya, pick-up trucks crammed with fighters disappeared into the distance.

"We are all martyrs ready to die for our country," a fearless 18-year-old said before joining a dozen men heading for the battlefront.

Read more on:    libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.


Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!


I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go! - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.