Libya's leaderless rebels bound only by conviction

More faith than organisation or experience

Between air raids and artillery bombardments on rebel positions throughout eastern Libya, anti-regime combattants bicker over how best to proceed.
Planning remains in its infancy in an uprising that is becoming increasingly militarised.
"If it's going to be like this, I'm off - I've had enough!" says the gunner of an anti-aircraft battery after a bitter dispute with his fellow fighters outside Ras Lanuf, the insurrection's last foothold before entering regime-held territory.
"You must understand that he's been there five days without sleep," says Mohammed Ali, 30, while the rookie gunner carries out his threat.
"There are no tactics, everyone is just fighting his own corner. It's hardly organised," says Ali, originally from regime-besieged Misrata but who arrived on the front from Benghazi, epicentre of the eastern revolt.
The guerrilla said he takes his orders from two young officers -- veterans of Libyan military campaigns in Chad and Uganda -- based at Brega, about 120 km (75 miles) to the east.
"We try to coordinate with them when we can get them on the phone," Ali says.
Nearby, a bearded rebel in jeans, sandals and a black headband sits behind an anti-aircraft battery and argues with a small group of fighters.
"It's not right to send rookies up against artillery and tanks. Everything we have won will be smashed to pieces," he warns.
As many as 8,000 Libyans have driven to the front with whatever equipment they can muster, before raiding the regime's abundant local arms and munitions depots.
"Our youth don't have much experience but they have courage to spare," says Issa al-Shukri, a 36-year-old computer teacher from Benghazi who has seen all the action in Ras Lanuf.
"It's the youth who are in charge," he says, in reference to the original demonstrators, as opposed to turncoat officers or ex-regime officials.
"The soldier fights for his pay but the revolutionary seeks victory or martyrdom -- who is stronger?" he asks rhetorically.
In fact, the military expertise of whole units that have defected has been slow to translate into gains on the battlefield.
On the ground, the only centralised orders emanate from the disembodied authority of vehicle-mounted speakers, which only occasionally issue any instructions.
"We are all specialists, each with his own military competence," says Mohammed el-Abidi, formerly head of air defence in Benghazi, from whence he came by truck with a load of ground-to-air missiles.
White-haired, he brandishes a rebel publication listing 15 ex-colonels who rallied to the uprising.
"There are only colonels -- the generals are all friends of Gathafi," he smirks.
"This is a militia, there's no way to organise it," he says, disillusioned at the sight of forces gathered outside the town, before getting back in the truck and heading east, a rocket launcher perched on his shoulder.