Sunday, October 9, 2011
Scottish Rebel's "squeaky bum time"
By Ruth Sherlock, Sirte
1:17PM BST 08 Oct 2011
In ferocious close-contact, street-to-street fighting, they took a central residential complex about a mile and half (3km) inside the city.
The fighters are heading for the main street in the city centre, about half a mile away.
Men hunkered on the pavement behind a low wall, taking cover from incoming sniper rounds. Bullets hissed overhead, pinging against gum trees that lined what was once a sleepy neighbourhood.
Rifle butts pointing through the street railings, gunmen shot in the direction of the sniper fire. Pickups armed with heavy machine guns pelted bullets down the street, pushing back loyalist forces.
Artillery trucks followed, supporting the foot patrol as they pushed further into city.
Seven hundred complex - as the residential district is known - was Colonel Gaddafi’s pet project. Homes were said to have been given to members of his tribe and key loyalist supporters. The green walls surrounding the complex were emblazoned with the imprint of the African continent, a reminder of the ousted dictator’s ambitions to be king of Africa.
After two days of heavy fighting, homes stood destroyed and abandoned.
On Friday, battered T55 tanks, rocket-launcher trucks and fighters moved in formation across the expanse of flat scrubland towards the southern city gates.
In the largest co-ordinated onslaught yet, thousands of fighters and armed pickup trucks from dozens of rebel brigades had gathered on roads around the besieged city before dawn.
Brigades from eastern Libya pounded their front, and another brigade advanced along the coastline.
The battle for Sirte is the culmination of the Nato-supported eight-month Libyan civil war. National Transitional Council Chairman Abdel Mustafa Jalil has pinned the full "declaration of Libya", marking the start of a period of political transition, on the fall of the city.
Rebel braveheart injured by shrapnel reveals how RPG killed two comrades
Published Date: 09 October 2011
By Emma Cowing
RAGAB BALLALI, the Scot who joined the Libyan rebel army to fight Gaddafi's forces, last night described how he narrowly escaped death after being wounded on the front line during the battle for Sirte.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday from Tunisia, where he was taken for treatment after being injured by a rocket propelled grenade and a sniper's bullet on Wednesday, he said: "There had been heavy fighting all day and I was sitting in this building in
Sirte chatting to a couple of other fighters. '
"Suddenly there was this huge explosion and everything went black. I was thrown to the ground and, when I looked up, the guys next to me were both dead.
"I got out of the building and started to go towards the medic to get cleaned up. I crossed the road and that's when I got hit by a sniper. I was shot in the arm."
Ballali, 36, from Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, was taken to hospital in Benghazi, for treatment to shrapnel wounds to his face, arms and back. He has since been moved to a clinic in Tunis where he is being closely monitored. It is hoped he will be able to travel back to the UK this week.
"My arm is really painful," he said. "But I'm at peace. I've seen a lot of things that aren't that nice, things I'd rather not have seen, but I don't regret any of it, and it hasn't affected me mentally. I'm a strong person."
His father, Yunus Ballali, a long-term opponent of the Gaddafi regime who fled Libya for Scotland with his family more than 30 years ago, said: "My son is OK. He is a strong man. I'm very proud of him."
Ballali said he was still shocked at his near-miss. "The other two guys were sitting on either side of me and they were killed instantly. I have no idea why they didn't make it and I did."
Last month, Ballali, who went to school in Edinburgh and worked as a club doorman, told Scotland on Sunday he had experienced a narrow miss from an RPG during fighting in the oil town of Brega, before Gaddafi's regime fell.
"They were firing at us, and suddenly this rocket-propelled grenade came ricocheting past between me and the guy next to me and exploded right above us," he said. "There have been quite a few times like that when I've though 'OK, this is getting a bit dodgy now'. It's squeaky bum time if you know what I mean."
He said he had joined the rebels because he was horrified by the scenes he saw in the media following the revolution in Libya. "I had to do something," he said. "I was sitting at home watching the revolution in Egypt on TV. Gaddafi was firing on his own people and I just found that really shocking. I decided I had to go.
"You can't watch your own people die.