Saturday 10 December 2016

Libyan rebels await 'zero hour' as top footballers defect

ADAM SCHRECK in TRIPOLI

Published 26/06/2011 | 05:00

Libyan authorities accused Nato of killing 15 people yesterday in an airstrike that hit a restaurant and bakery in the east, though the alliance said there were no indications that civilians had died.

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Meanwhile, rebel representatives said their fighters were co-ordinating around the country for the "zero hour" when their forces would reach the capital of Tripoli.

The rebels said they have been working to cut fuel supplies from Tunisia in an attempt to paralyse Gaddafi's forces.

Rebels also are making homemade bombs and trying to ferry other weapons to their comrades in Tripoli, a spokesman for an underground guerrilla group there said.

Recent progress has been slow and rebels have taken many casualties, but there are signs Gaddafi's forces are also being stretched and the local economy hit by international sanctions.

In what would be a morale-booster for rebels if they hear about it, four members of Libya's national football team and 13 other football figures defected to the rebels, the BBC reported.

It said national goalkeeper Juma Gtat and Adel bin Issa, the coach of Tripoli's top club al-Ahly, announced the defections in the rebel-held Nafusa Mountains in western Libya.

Football is hugely popular in Libya. So enthusiastic was Col Gaddafi about the prowess of his country's players that he installed his son Saadi as president of the Libyan Football Federation after a spell as captain of the national team.

Yesterday, the spokesman of the rebels' western mountain military council confirmed that rebels were co-ordinating with individual cells and with an underground rebel guerrilla group known as the Tripoli Council. The main goals are to cut the fuel from Gaddafi's forces.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Tripoli Council said their fighters were carrying out what they called "selective attacks" on Gaddafi forces in the capital.

The spokesman, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the rebels were co-ordinating for "the zero hour, when rebels from liberated cities enter Tripoli".

He added: "It will be a tremendous mission. The city is now besieged by 13 different security brigades, well armed and well equipped.

"Gaddafi has always said that his loyalists will sabotage the city if he falls. So this will be our mission: to mob it and clean it of mercenaries."

Sunday Independent

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