Ras Lanuf Falls to Rebels

In a major push west, rebel forces in Libya are said by Reuters to have taken the major petroleum and refining town of Ras Lanuf on the Mediterranean coast east of the capital of Libya, consolidating their control over the east of the country and its resources.

Divided Libya

Divided Libya

While there continue to be Qaddafi regime attacks on eastern cities, these appear either to be mere skirmishes or still-ineffectual bombing runs. There was an explosion at an arms depot at Benghazi, the center of the rebellion, on Friday, but is not clear whether it was an act of sabotage or the result of an accident. BBC reports that shops close up early in Benghazi and people are cautious about going out, so life is still hard in the rebel-held territories.

Aljazeera English reports that esprit de corps is high in rebel-held Ajdabiya and Brega/ Buraiqa.

In the west, pro-Qaddafi forces continued their attempt to roll back the rebels around the capital, attacking liberated Zawiya and engaging in fierce fighting with anti-Qaddafi crowds and military defect0rs, in which some 30 persons were killed and more wounded. Both sides were claiming control of Zawiya, just to the west of Tripoli, as night fell Friday, which likely means that the city is divided.

ITN reports on the fighting in Zawiya:

In Tripoli itself, on Friday evening thousands of pro-Qaddafi civilians rallied at Green Square. But in the working-class suburb of Tajoura, hundreds demonstrated against Qaddafi after Friday prayers before being dispersed by troops using live ammunition. Tajoura is said to be without pro-Qaddafi police or security forces, and essentially not in regime control.

If it is true that Ras Lanuf has fallen, then the momentum still seems to be with the eastern rebels, who have been supporting themselves and sending reinforcements as they have extended their sway toward the west and fought off (as in Brega/ Buraiqa on Wednesday) regime counter-attacks. That Ras Lanuf is an oil center with a major refinery makes it an especially valuable asset for the rebels. About 1 million barrels a day out of a pre-revolt 1.7 million b/d have been taken off the market by the fighting in Libya.

Posted in Libya | 13 Responses | Print |

13 Responses

  1. .
    As a former infantry officer, I must say that the “action” in the video looks a lot more like Civil Disturbance/ Crowd Control (non-lethal) than combat.

    Either Colonel Qaddafi does not want to kill the protesters, or his lieutenants don’t.

    I don’t think he believes that his hold on power is seriously threatened.

    • Brian:

      Could it be what you’re seeing is a bunch of marginally trained infantry just “sprayin’ and prayin”? I’ve heard AK are notoriously ineffective, even in skilled hands, unless you’re pretty close-up.

      Not know WHAT I’m talking about….my sense from looking at this fighting is alot of guys running around shooting zillions of rounds wildly, with casualties more often being inflicted by stray rounds than competent fire. Is it possible what you’ve seen is incompetent fire rather than fire withheld?

      • .
        Travis, I believe that I saw video of three different types of engagements in Tripoli, Ras Lanuf and in Zawiyah. But I really don’t know what’s going on.

        TRIPOLI: CS, tear gas, is a non-lethal agent used to disperse crowds. Fatalities are rare and usually accidental. The crowd was throwing rocks, and appeared unarmed. Government forces were in a crowd control formation coming down the middle of the street. They had weapons, but weren’t firing. The unit exhibited what I call discipline, acting like they were under the control of a sergeant or officer.

        RAS LANUF: Rebels were all armed. One guy with huge rounds (maybe .50 cal or larger) in bandoleers criss-crossing his chest was carrying a weapon that cannot fire such rounds. A fellow kicked a small caliber (maybe 75 mm) towed howitzer and something exploded. I couldn’t tell if that was how he fired it, or if the breech exploded. Definitely not aimed fire, nor was it being adjusted on the other end. Government aircraft passed over for reconnaissance, never firing. Occasional ambulances evacuating wounded. The Rebels didn’t look to me like they thought that they were in danger or on their way to battle, firing off celebratory rounds. Maybe they were coming back from the front.
        I felt like I could take the 200 or so rebels I saw in the video with one disciplined squad (about 10 men.) Overall, I thought they were just celebrating that they had guns, which can give a sense of empowerment.
        Then again, the video report was hundreds or thousands of meters from where the fighting was. I saw one burned out bus. Who knows what I didn’t see.

        ZAWIYAH: The crowd was responding like the crowd at Kent State in 1970. Some victims on the ground. Folks startled that they might actually get hurt. No context.
        But if a sniper was killing folks one by one, I would expect the crowd to disperse, which they hadn’t.
        All in all, I don’t know what’s going on. I trained for crowd control while in the National Guard, not while on Active Duty (Posse Comitatus,) after Kent State. I got training on how to use rubber bullets for non-lethal effects. I doubt that the Libyan military cares much about preventing injuries, but the injuries looked light to me. If an unarmed crowd was facing down a Mercenary force and the Mercs started shooting to kill, I would not expect to see any crowd. Maybe this was immediately after the first salvo ?

        GENERAL IMPRESSION: What I’ve seen is just a glimpse. No “big picture” view yet. But this is not the second coming of Attila the Hun.

  2. How about what we hear from Zawiya this morning? now that sounded serious in my ears, for the rebels (without any professional experience whatsoever). It looks to me on the whole, they´re stuck now, with Zawiya, Brega, Misrata going back and forth and back and forth for how long now….

    Is it time to get seriously worried for the rebels´ mission?

  3. Appreciate Brian’s comment. In fact, the dimension of informed speculation, at a minimum, is sorely lacking in this matter.

    Best thing I’ve heard were a few lines repeated by the CNN talking head on site, who was parroting a few insights gathered from their security crew, regarding quality of armaments, etc. All these guys are telling us is that there was fighting of some sort, there was an explosion of some sort.

    Beyond the volume of sheer ignorance on the part of reporters, there is the ACTIVE ignorance from people that are worse than amateurs. A Tom Clancy enthusiast at least is oriented, but these guys are clueless and prone to projection that they have no excuse for.

    I’d like to know just how far esprit de corps will get the rebels when they have no “corps”? In fact, they’re just a bunch of swarming individuals; there is a body of knowledge how fighters work under these circumstances, but I haven’t heard it. And, even knowing that, how well can they fare, even going up against a rag-tag, bare excuse for a army like Q’s?

    Most of all, I’d like a guest editorial from someone like Anthony Cordesman, or informed speculation from anyone else, about how this thing plays out, militarily. How possible will it be for those officers in the East to get their forces organized to the point where they can hope to “hold” ground, as Q’s gang starts to leverage their organization. Is a stalemate really plausible, or is thing going to implode on the East pretty much inevitably at some point?

    • How possible? About so possible.

      It doesn’t take that long to organize a rudimentary army, if you start out with some people with military experience and lots of people who are able to handle a weapon to a degree. The rebels have both. So it’s certainly entirely possible that an organized army will emerge. The longer this situation lasts, the more likely it is. There are plenty of precedents, from the Russian civil war to the Lebanese and Algerian ones closer to home. And from news reports, they have started more or less formal drilling already.

  4. For those wanting a military and intelligence look at the ME and Libya Col. Lang’s site provides some insight.
    link to turcopolier.typepad.com
    Sic Semper Tyrannis

    Colonel Lang is a retired Army Military Intelligence, Special Forces, and Foreign Area Officer. In his last active duty assignment, he was Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and Terrorism. Following retirement, he became the first Director of the Defense HUMINT Service for which he was awarded Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive. He was the first Arabic Language professor at West Point. After leaving government, he served ten years as a business executive for a company operating in the Middle East and South Asia. He wrote Intelligence: the Human Factor, a definitive text on human intelligence collection operations, as well as several novels based on Confederate secret services in the Civil War. He is a VMI graduate and has a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies.

    Being a Vietnam veteran and Green Beret his views naturally aren’t your typical civilians but still very informative.

  5. The latest news says that President Chavez has proposed to create a group of mediators to solve the problem in Libya, which seems quite paradoxical since the people of Venezuela would also need the revolution to put the country on the path to democracy.

      • Thanks Yusuf, I was thinking the exact same thing. Lorne, you need to go back to Imperialists school, you failed.

  6. Prof. Cole: who are these “rebels”? Someone suggested recently that the main actors here are tribal leaders trying to get control or a cut of the oil revenues.

  7. Venezuela is a democracy. People who say otherwise demonstrate either ignorance or dishonesty. In fact, even if you read some of the harshest criticism of Chavez (put out by Human Rights Watch or Inter- American Commission of Human Rights) it is impossible not to conclude that the Chavez governmnet’s human rights record is far superior to Obama’s.

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