Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Rebel fighters push-start a pickup truck mounted with a recoil-less rifle. Heavy fighting in the city, east of Benghazi, was reported throughout the day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A group of men carry a slain rebel fighter's s coffin along the corniche.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A toddler with a pacifier and military costume joins a demonstration at the courthouse shortly after the city's airport was bombed by Kadafi's forces.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Demonstrators carry a large pre-Kadafi national flag to the courthouse as government forces launched airstrikes on the city.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel fighters prepare to defend Ajdabiya.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel helicopter gunship flies towards Ajdabiya, which rebels ultimately lost.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A family flees the fighting in Ajdabiya.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A woman adds her voice to chants of "Free Libya!" during a rally at the rebel-held city's courthouse.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Caricatures of Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi adorn the walls of the revolutionary media center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

The number of pictures on the so-called Wall of Martyrs has grown steadily.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

BENGHAZI, LIBYA - MAR. 9, 2011. A likeness of Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi and the green flag of his regime burn outside the Benghazi courthouse on Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2011.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A young man kisses a pre-Kadafi Libyan flag, the banner of the rebellion, outside a recruiting office.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel assembles an ammunition belt during the heady early days of the uprising against Moammar Kadafi's government.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter rolls into town with his weapon hanging out the window of a pickup truck.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher takes up a position.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel fighter holds a bone. "Kadafi," he said.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Hospital personnel empty the pockets of a dead rebel fighter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rebel supporters pray over the graves of two fighters who were slain in the battle at Port Brega.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A group of boys get into the revolutionary spirit on the streets of the rebel stronghold.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Rainfall puts a damper on a demonstration in the eastern city during the early optimism of the rebellion.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A rebel supporter stands before a graffiti-covered courthouse wall, a week after the revolt began.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A pair of rebel fighters in a car draped with the pre-Kadafi Libyan flag.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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Journalists plan exit as rebellion in Libya collapses

[Updated March 16: Sinco and correspondents Jeffery Fleishman and David Zucchino stayed for another day to cover the conflict. Meanwhile four journalists, including two photographers, from the New York Times were reported missing in nearby Ajdabiya.]

Times staff photographer Luis Sinco has been in Libya for about three weeks working in rebel-held areas. He filed this report about the situation in Benghazi as he packed for his departure tomorrow:

Late today, I heard news of heavy shelling in Ajdabiya, the last rebel-held city west of Benghazi. I hitched a ride with another photojournalist and a driver from the revolutionary press center in Benghazi. We made it 20 miles down the road.

We stopped at a checkpoint to ask if it was safe to go ahead, and the rebels said Ajdabiya was encircled, with Moammar Kadafi’s forces pouring in from all directions. The driver — apparently a rich kid, with a brand-new SUV, an expensive watch and rebel chic couture of camouflage and kaffiyeh — refused to believe them and laughed.

As he argued with the rebels, a truck mounted with a machine gun approached. In the blink of an eye, the rebels at the checkpoint cocked their weapons and were about to open fire when the passengers of the truck yelled frantically at them to stop. They were friendlies.

I have not seen the rebels this jumpy before, and the incident spoke volumes.

We waited 30 minutes, and no more vehicles transporting rebels came down the road from Ajdabiya. We told the driver to take us back to Benghazi, but he refused. We got out of his vehicle and walked across the highway to flag down one of the few cars heading east. Finally, he relented, told us to get in and headed back.

On the journey home, he berated us in Arabic — and I can only guess that he was mocking us for not moving forward. We let it slide.

Like most of the functionaries at the Benghazi courthouse, he has guzzled the Kool-Aid. Like the others, he has not seen the fighting up close — and rebel-controlled television and newspapers have stayed on message that everything is OK and they are holding fast. As far as I know, that is a bald-faced lie.

Before we parted ways, I looked the driver in the eye and told him: “Kid, we just did you a big favor.” Through the rear-view mirror, he glared back in disdain.

In a rare candid admission, a representative of the revolutionary government today likened the plight of the Libyan people to a man caught in a torrential flood, clinging to a twig against the current, desperately hoping to survive overwhelming odds. The Kadafi’s forces now are less than 60 miles away, and the revolutionary spirit in Benghazi remains resilient or delusional, whichever way you want to look at it.

“Kadafi will only rule me again when he is standing on my grave,” the official said.

Outside I heard celebratory gunfire, car horns honking and people whooping it up. Today marks the Ides of March. The situation is Orwellian.

This hotel, which three days ago was teeming with journalists, is virtually empty. The hotel staff has heard the bad news from us, and they look morose. We will be among the last ones out.

Relegated to the sidelines because of restricted access to the fighting and rebels at the front, I have sifted through scores of images from the nearly month-old Libyan uprising. This gallery includes the faces of people who have already paid the ultimate price, or will be besieged, wounded or dead in coming days.

For me, this story has come to the -30-. Times reporters David Zucchino, Jeffrey Fleishman and I are off to Cairo at the crack of dawn for the six-hour drive to the Egyptian border. I pray our ride shows up and the border doesn’t close before we get there.

More photos by Sinco can be seen in these galleries. Read the full story by Zucchino and Fleishman “Libyan government forces overwhelm rebels in Ajdabiya.

2 Comments

  1. March 15, 2011, 6:11 pm

    take care

    By: josip.saric@hrt.hr
  2. March 20, 2011, 1:34 am

    God be with you.God be with the Libyan people. Our hearts goes out to them at this time. Love from Nigeria.

    By: Damochie

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