Libyan rebels fight fire with fire

Libya's rebels won a major diplomatic victory Friday, when the U.S. and more than thirty other nations formally recognized them as Libya's legitimate government.

That could give them access to billions from Muammar Qaddafi's frozen assets.

US recognizes Libya rebels in blow to Qaddafi

QAWALISH, Libya -The rebel fighters in Libya's western mountains have learned to fight fire with fire, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports. Phillips is on the front line with the rebels - just 60 miles from Tripoli.

Twice now the rebels have launched attacks in the see-saw battle over the strategic village of Qawalish; firing rockets they'd previously captured from government troops back at them.

Qaddafi loyalists fell back under the barrage. But the 10 day battle for Qawalish has taken its toll on the rebel side. They lost 8 dead - most from the nearby town of Zintan - where it seemed the entire male population came out for the funeral.

The rebels are defiant, but their limitations were exposed in this fighting as well. The citizens' army of clerks and workers and students and just about everything else, lacks a co-coordinated strategy and - the local commander says - has no direct communications with NATO's air cover.

"When we get permission from NATO will advance forward," local rebel commander Moussab Edueb said.

The rebels now nervously guard their front again, hindered by their makeshift weapons. These mountain people fight in small, disjointed bands from individual often rival towns. After they first took this territory last week, most of the fighters just went home. This time they've beefed up their numbers to try to hold on to it.

The rebels have another problem. They've taken control of their own towns, their own mountain region, but beyond - down on the plain, there are different tribes, different people, and different loyalties. In this fight, heart will only take them so far.

One of the rebels, Abdul, says they are more than ready. But are they capable? "I'm capable we are all capable so I'm a civilian, I'm not a soldier." But with his rifle, he says, "I can do magic."

How are these rebels going to overthrow Qaddafi by force? Most likely -- they're not.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports U.S. military analysts agree the rebels don't have anything like effective command and control.

The hope is, that economic sanctions, NATO's air campaign and a little pressure from the rebels will convince Qaddafi's inner circle that the dictator has to go.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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