Wednesday 18 October 2017

Irishman gets crash course in warfare after joining rebels

Irish-Libyan rebel fighter Husam Najjair speaks to reporters at a frontline checkpoint
near Tiji in western Libya yesterday. Najjair left behind a life as a building contractor in
Dublin to become a member of one of the many armed rebel groups
Irish-Libyan rebel fighter Husam Najjair speaks to reporters at a frontline checkpoint near Tiji in western Libya yesterday. Najjair left behind a life as a building contractor in Dublin to become a member of one of the many armed rebel groups

Michael Georgy in Tiji, Libya

As Libyan rebels braced for more desert fighting yesterday, one of them explained battlefield dangers -- in a Dublin accent.

"They have ammunition to burn while we are running out of ammunition," said Irishman Husam Najjair, who is taking part in a new offensive against government forces near Tiji.

Once a builder in Dublin, he now belongs to the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, one of the rebel forces struggling to end Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

The son of an Irish mother and Libyan father, he decided to join the rebels after reports alleging that government troops were committing atrocities to quell Libya's uprising.

"I heard there were rapes and oppression. I could not just sit there like a couch potato just watching it on the news," said Najjair, holding a rifle he purchased himself.

Najjair came to Libya for a family wedding in January and stayed on to fight after the February 17 revolt began. Friends back home were shocked.

Like many rebels, he had a crash course in warfare, mostly on the job. Sometimes he gathers intelligence. Or he uses Facebook to promote the rebels.

"I am also a sniper," said Najjair, who was born in Dublin. "It's not rocket science. You just hold your breath and shoot."

Adjusting to his new life has meant an upheaval for him. "I wasn't always such a good Muslim in Dublin," said the bearded Najjair. "You could say I spent some time at nightclubs."

The days can be tedious. Rebels sit around for hours cleaning their guns and awaiting orders as the sun beats down on rough, sandy terrain and scrub that offer few hiding places from the heat, or Gaddafi's Grad missiles.

Stench

When it is broken, the meal is likely to be simple, perhaps another camel like the one which was eaten recently. The stench of the remains of its carcass permeated the air.

Rebels have seized several towns and villages in the offensive. But the war has seen Gaddafi's forces hit back and retake territory.

Najjair lost two comrades on Sunday and he says taking the town of Tiji will be tough because it is loyal to Gaddafi. "Their blood runs green," he said, referring to the colour that symbolises Gaddafi's rule.

"Yesterday a sniper was closely tracking me and shooting at me as I moved for quite a distance," said Najjair.

But he believes it's worth the risk. "This has made me learn about myself, what I am capable of achieving," he said.

Irish Independent

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