Libya rebels ready patchwork arsenal for war

BENGHAZI, Libya - The mostly civilian rebels facing off against Libyan strongman Muammar al Qaddafi have been doing pretty well so far, CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark reports.

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Rebel forces control eastern Libya, including Benghazi. Troops loyal to Qaddafi tried to re-take three cities overnight, but they were repelled by opposition forces. In one of those cities, Zawiya, there were celebrations in the streets Tuesday. Local residents are firmly in charge and demanding that Qaddafi go.

The rebels are getting more organized and better armed every day.

At one point here, a cheer goes up from a group of volunteers. A convoy of trucks loaded with badly needed weapons and ammunition just arrived at the base where they're training.

Men are getting a crash course on armed rebellion, and they know they could soon be facing a professional army well financed with oil money and bands of African mercenaries flown in for this fight.

It's clear many of the men haven't handled a weapon before. Through a translator, one man summed up the reason why they are now: "For all the people and for their freedom."

This is a fight that cuts across generations. Young people have been at the forefront so far, but in this part of Libya it now seems the whole society is refusing to be intimidated by Qaddafi.

"We are worried, but we are not scared because we are brave people," Hakim Abdullah Hassan said.

It's a mismatched arsenal that needs a good cleaning. Some of the weapons are from army units that switched sides; some were smuggled in.

The militia is starting to stockpile their military hardware. CBS News has been taken to a location where weapons and ammunition are stacked up ready to go.

CBS News agreed not to reveal the location of the weapons cache storing piles of old Soviet-era munitions, bullets, rockets and grenades.

It may not seem like much, but it's more than they had in the first days of fighting when unarmed protesters faced down soldiers firing automatic weapons.

That's what convinced businessman Abdel Wahab Daggari to start gathering guns for the cause.

"These kids just had stones, and they were getting hit with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikovs," Daggari said through a translator.

Some fighters hope that every new piece of hardware wheeled in evens the odds in this battle just a bit.

There's a debate among the rebel factions over whether they should launch an offensive on Tripoli or call for their supporters in the capital to launch a new wave of protests. What that boils down to is a choice between a protest movement and a civil war.

As for what the international community can do, the leaders of the rebellion say they don't want direct foreign intervention, but it's clear they would like to see a no-fly zone imposed on Libya. Everyone in this part of the country is worried that Qaddafi will launch a bombing campaign.

  • Mandy Clark

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