The former stronghold near the Tunisian border, once a center of fighting, has already begun to return to normal
A Libyan rebel soldier rests at a checkpoint near the village of Nalut in western Libya / Reuters
NALUT, Libya -- People are not talking about Qaddafi in the border town of Nalut. They are talking about plumbing. A city of 20,000, Nalut is the gateway to the strategically important western mountains, where the final push that led to Tripoli began three weeks ago. While the world wonders where Qaddafi is, the more immediate issues here are the mundane challenges of a small town recovering from seven months of war.
Never the scene of hand to hand fighting, Nalut, which sits on a dramatic bluff over a desert canyon, has since the uprising began in mid-February suffered heavy bombardment by loyalist rockets, which fired nightly for some stretches and sometimes by day from launchers in a valley below. After local militias expanded their reach to the nearby border with Tunisia, opening a supply line to Libya's Western mountains. Soon after, Nalut became the key defensive point for the anti-Qaddafi forces' western front.
Qaddafi pounded Nalut, attempting to cut the line, but a NATO attack on defenses around the rocket batteries near the town allowed militias here to break the siege in July. That offense has since proven to have been one of the key turning points in the drive that led directly north from Nalut to the oil refinery in Zawiha, which fell last week, and onward to Tripoli. Nalut's militias didn't win the war. But they failed to lose it, at least, and held on under the rockets when earlier pushes from the East, in Misrata and Benghazi, seemed to have stalled.