Wad of cash found in Bani Walid
Near Bani Walid - In the middle of a sun-cracked desert valley at the foot of the contested Libyan oasis town of Bani Walid, new regime fighters found an unexpected boost at a makeshift bank under a bridge.
A man armed with a suitcase full of fresh banknotes doled out a monthly stipend for fighters of the Awfiyah Brigade who are risking their lives in what is widely expected to be one of Libya's final front lines.
"This month we are handing out 250 Libyan dinars instead of 300 because our ranks have grown," said Nasser Buzeid, a volunteer with the committee to support combatants on the front lines, which was formed in June.
A scribe diligently took notes of each fighter paid and registered requests for money transfers to the east of the country where many of the former rebels have relatives.
"My family simply needs it more than me," said Rafit Abdullah Ibrahim, 21, a native of Al-Bayda, where the first demonstrations against strongman Muammar Gaddafi erupted in February.
Before the war, Ibrahim was studying to become a veterinary surgeon, and drove a minivan for pocket money. Now he carries a Kalashnikov and offsets the routine army slacks worn by fighters in his brigade with a sharp cowboy hat.
Wad of cash
His father, a teacher, has not seen a salary in months, so Ibrahim hopes that the unexpected handout received southeast of Tripoli will travel safely to his hometown to help feed his seven younger siblings.
Ibrahim says he needs nothing but victory for the revolution.
"I really don't need anything because everything is available on the front: water, food, cigarettes, clothes... the NTC is providing us with everything," he said of the country's new leadership, the National Transitional Council.
Many young men, including Uthman Mohammed, 17, who earned money by washing cars before the war, feel the same way.
"I am so happy to fight for my country and get a little bit of money to help my family," said Mohammed, a native of Benghazi, wartime stronghold of the NTC and home base for the Awfiyah Brigade.
"God bless our brothers for helping us," said Mohammed, the eldest son in a family of eight, and the only one out fighting a war increasingly far from home.
The wad of cash two thumbs thick is his first wartime payment, he said.
Mustapha Rajab, 41, stuffs a brown envelope with 100 dinars to send back to his wife and daughter in Benghazi, writing their home phone number. He puts the remainder in his back pocket.
"I am fighting on the front so I need some money as a salary," he said.
The money distributed to rebels, Buzeid told AFP, comes from the pockets of Libyans who want to support the men fighting for the north African nation's liberation.
"A group of women in Benghazi sold their jewellery and raised 100 000 dinars," Buzeid said, adding that the total budget for the month of September exceeded three million Libyan dinars.
There are more than 600 Awfiyah combatants fighting in the west, stationed in the capital Tripoli, in Tarhuna and on the outskirts of Bani Walid, one of the final strongholds of Kadhafi loyalists, he said.
"My men are giving the final blows to this tyrant - they deserve it all," said commander Abu Jela Ali Hebshy before dispatching his fighters to secure the hillsides, a hideout for pro-Kadhafi snipers.