Using seized weapons, they've charged themselves with defending against Qaddafi's attempt to retake their cities
AJDABIA, Libya -- On Wednesday, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's warplanes bombarded opposition-held Ajdabia, a coastal town 175 km south of Benghazi, the eastern city that has become the unofficial headquarters of anti-Qaddafi forces. That same day, Qaddafi also sent mercenaries to attack the oil-rich town of Brega, 80 km to the southwest, where fighting left 17 dead and, according to some reports, eight more dragged off by mercenaries to an unknown fate. Though fighting between the regime and the opposition has raged openly in Tripoli for the past week, these attacks brought Qaddafi's first overt hostilities against the rebel-controlled east of the country since yellow-hatted mercenaries massacred civilian protesters in Benghazi on February 17th.
Since ousting Qaddafi's forces and seizing control over much of eastern Libya on February 21, civilians and defectors from Qaddafi's army have been gathering in military camps in Benghazi, receiving training from former officers, arming themselves with weapons taken from now-abandoned depots, and preparing for the inevitable counterattack, which began two days ago. That morning, the nascent rebel force mobilized. Many in Ajdabia and elsewhere had received phone calls from friends and family in Brega, which they said was under attack. Newly trained and ready to fight, thousands of these volunteers sped down to help. Ultimately, this irregular force managed to hold the town. Victorious, many returned to the military camp in Ajdabia that evening.