Is it paranoia, or could pro-regime elements remain in the ranks of military defectors?
RAJMA, Libya -- The arms depot next to the village of Rajma sits on a plot of land that is 50 square kilometers, a hill ringed with green fields and sparse forests. Near the site of the still-unexplained explosion that devastated the depot on Friday, trees laid flat against the earth, their roots still fresh and alive. Giant craters marked the ground. Hundreds of anti-aircraft arms still remained under the twisted steel girders that had collapsed from the heat of the fire.
At night, the wrecked depot was truly ghostly. Pieces of sheet metal, which had once formed the walls of the airplane hangar, dangled from what little remained of the structure, waving back and forth and creaking in the high winds. A few stray dogs barked into the desolate landscape, where at least 40 had been killed by the blast and fire.
No one knows exactly how many were killed in the explosion. There's no way to say how many rebel troops, which are organized informally if they're organized at all, were guarding the depot. Some of the dead left only partial remains; many may have left none at all.
Omar Omami, a 20-year-old Rajma local whose entire unit had defected from Qaddafi's army on February 17, tried to understand what had happened. Omami said that professional soldiers, not volunteers, had guarded the munitions depot."There was a shortage of people here, and a lot of disorganization in the security." He said that, since joining with the rebels, he had come to the depot frequently to resupply. He wasn't alone; Omami estimated that between 100 and 150 cars came to the depot everyday, shuttling journalists, soldiers, and curious Libyans to see the site.