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Rebels Brace For Attacks By Pro-Gadhafi Forces


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


Good morning, Peter.

PETER KENYON: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what is happening in Benghazi today.

KENYON: Again, information is hard to come by. This officer was speculating that it might be a ground assault instead of an air attack, but it's impossible to predict. Gadhafi has shown no reluctance to use air strikes in the past, although the pilots have apparently been trying not to damage Libya's oil infrastructure, which is very valuable to the country and a lot of it right now is currently in rebel hands.

MONTAGNE: We are seeing pictures and hearing about men in Benghazi donning uniforms, preparing for a ground fight. What all is being done there to face the possibility of a counterattack by Gadhafi?

KENYON: Well, I would call it a desperate emergency effort to try and train very untrained individuals for military action. It could come at any moment. There are plenty of sounds of gunfire and explosions, from Brega to Ajdabiya and to here in Benghazi, and it's usually the sound of civilians getting that training, learning how to hold off an attack, how to use guns, how to use other weapons. There are anti-aircraft positions being manned here in Benghazi, and especially in the evening. You hear a lot of explosions, a lot of sound of ordnance going off. It's not clear, however, how much of this training is taking and it's really unclear how these anti-government forces would hold up under a sustained attack if one comes.

MONTAGNE: And rebels have been talking about pushing towards other cities, though, controlled by Gadhafi. Are you seeing any evidence of that?

KENYON: Well, not yet. I mean you'd have to say there's no sign of waning resolve. The levels of bravery are as high as ever, but there really is no sign that we've heard yet of a clear plan to advance the rebel position. It's extremely difficult for them to push on towards Sirt from Brega, and certainly to get to Tripoli would be a big ask at this point. It looks like a standoff at the moment and we're all waiting to see which way the tide turns.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, what kind of word is reaching Benghazi about what is happening in Tripoli, the capital?

KENYON: Well, this, of course, is one of the big problems, the flow of information or the lack thereof. I mean not only is it hard to get information, it's virtually impossible to predict what Gadhafi will do next. One minute he says he's leading the effort, the next minute he's just a citizen. I would call it a hallmark of this conflict, just the lack of clear information.

MONTAGNE: Peter, thanks very much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon talking to us from Benghazi in eastern Libya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Peter Keynon