Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A rebel fighter armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on the road between Ras Lanuf and Uqaylah watches as a government airplane flies overhead.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters pause before continuing to the front line, which is about 15 miles west of Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Armed with short-range surface-to-air missiles, rebels take up positions in the desert between Ras Lanuf and Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

This rebel tank runs, but its cannon no longer works, and it serves mainly as a decoy at the edge of town.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter displays a hand grenade, the only weapon at his disposal.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter takes time to pray at the front line, about 15 miles west of Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters fill up as long lines form at a filling station. There is a palpable feeling of anxiety among residents that Kadafi's forces are quickly moving in their direction.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A Kadafi loyalist fires his AK-47 into the air to celebrate pushing rebel troops out of the Bin Jawad area.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A journalist views the evidence of war from the window of a bus near Ras Lanuf. Foreign journalists staying under government control in Tripoli were flown to an airport in the east and loaded onto buses for a trip to Ras Lanuf, which was until recently under rebel control.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A pro-government fighter cheers as buses loaded with journalists pass on the road toward Ras Lanuf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A pro-government soldier salutes a bus of journalists as it passes his position.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Government forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi celebrate after pushing rebels further to the east.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Smoke billows as Kadafi loyalists celebrate the retread of rebel forces from Ras Lanuf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Associated Press photographer Ben Curtis walks through a burned out house that was the result of fighting in recent days. Foreign journalists staying under government control in Tripoli were flown to an airport in the east and loaded onto buses for a trip to tour the area formerly held by rebel forces.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Homes and vehicles were damaged in what appeared to be fierce fighting between the Libyan military and rebel forces. Foreign journalists staying under government control in Tripoli were flown to an airport in the east and loaded onto buses for a trip to Ras Lanuf, which was until recently under rebel control.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Signs of intense fighting could be seen around the city of Bin Jawad after days of fighting between government forces and opposition rebels.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Fires continued to burn in Ras Lanuf after fierce fighting forced rebel forces to flee Kadafi's military assault and retreat to Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A man prays as an oil fire continues to burn in Ras Lanuf after forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi drove rebels from the city.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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Conflict in Libya continues as Kadafi's forces move east toward Port Brega

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Conflict in Libya continues as Kadafi's forces move east toward Port Brega

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Conflict in Libya continues as Kadafi's forces move east toward Port Brega

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Conflict in Libya continues as Kadafi’s forces move east toward Port Brega

After making substantial gains in pushing rebels from the cities of Zawiya in the west and the oil port of Ras Lanuf east of the capital, forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi continued their move toward the strategic city of Port Brega.  On Saturday, fighting flared on the road between Ras Lanuf and Port Brega as rebels, who claimed victory last week in Ras Lanuf,  retreated from the city amidst aerial bombings by Kadafi’s military.

Times photojournalist Luis Sinco has been covering the conflict in the area and filed the report below on today’s events. Fellow Times photojournalist Rick Loomis was also in Ras Launuf on Saturday, escorted by the Libyan government, and his report follows Sinco’s.

I spent Saturday afternoon in the flat and expansive Libyan desert, hanging
out with a group of lightly armed rebels just waiting to be chased off by
the vastly superior forces loyal to dictator Moammar Kadafi. In the
distance, enemy artillerymen “walked” their shells across a moonscape of
rock and shifting sand, booming in a line of black smoke and flying dirt.

It has become crystal-clear that the rebels are outgunned and outmatched.
Of the 50 fighters around me, only a handful carry weapons — vintage assault rifles,
rocket-propelled grenades or outdated shoulder-fired missiles. Puzzling as
it seems, many have no firearms at all. They’re satisfied simply schlepping
ammunition.

One fighter proudly posed with a hand grenade, the only weapon he brought to
the front lines. The vintage antiaircraft artillery the rebels tow behind
their pickup trucks jam frequently – and are useless against fighter jets
zipping through the wispy clouds above. Nothing but this makeshift army
stands between Kadafi and Benghazi, the heart of the opposition-held eastern Libya.

The consensus among the journalists covering this war is
that Kadafi’s forces will roll to the edge of the city within a week,
quickly encircling it for a long siege. Most already have contingency plans
to escape to the Egyptian border. But there is only one road leading out. And if that
gets cut off, we could be trapped here for months — a prospect unappealing
to all involved.

Representatives of the opposition government are in deep denial. They remain
euphoric over official recognition from France. But that and an unlikely
infusion of modern arms, intensive training and sound strategy may yet save
the day.

From their smoke-filled offices in the Benghazi courthouse, they continue
extolling the patriotic party line, assuring all in daily news conferences
that everything is okay. Until today, they continued to claim that the
strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf was still in rebel hands. But that fight
ended two days ago, with the revolutionaries in headlong retreat.

Maybe the officials should head southwest about 200 miles and see just how
bleak the situation is. Their fighters might as well use straws and
spitballs. Meantime, Western powers have said that support through military
supplies and a no-fly zone just aren’t going to materialize soon.

The rebel fighters sound noble and courageous when they vow to fight to the bitter end
with bare hands. This week, I photographed a man at the front lines waving a
meat cleaver in the air. They welcome martyrdom and have absolutely no
skepticism about heavenly rewards promised by God.

A French photographer I befriended in Fallouja, Iraq, noted today that there is a
big difference between crazy and stupid. I hope I am wrong, but I’m
beginning to think the people of “Free Libya” just can’t tell.

————-

Rick Loomis‘ report:

On Saturday foreign journalists were taken by plane from Tripoli to Surt, and then headed east by bus to the rebel front.  The Libyan military was in clear control of Ben Jawwad and Ras Lanuf, which just days ago were in the hands of the rebels.

I knew from the photographs that my colleague Luis Sinco had taken a few days ago that I was now traveling over the same ground where he photographed the rebels advancing on Tripoli.  Sinco was there during the time of intense fighting.  My visit was marked by celebrating soldiers holding posters of Moammar Kadafi. Few civilians were anywhere to be seen, only the physical remnants of heavy warfare.

Sinco, my comrade, fled the area with rebel soldiers as the pulled back to Port Brega and beyond.  Our tour of the area was easy by comparison.  One stop in Ben Jawwad, and the next near the refinery in Ras Lanuf.  A thick black plume of smoke billowed into the sky from an enormous fire at the refinery as soldiers and government minders made their evening prayers.

Heading back to the airport, the Mark Wahlburg movie “Shooter” was playing on the overhead screen for a busload of frustrated journalists, barely getting to tell even half the story.

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