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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Family Holds On To Home, In abandoned Libyan City


In Libya, the focal point has been on the continued siege of the western town of Misrata.

But there is also erratic fighting in the east between rebels and forces loyal to the government of leader Moammar Gadhafi. The front line there is outside the city of Ajdabiya.

A busy city just a few weeks ago, Ajdabiya now has the feel of a ghost town. Chunks of concrete, twisted light poles and other debris garbage the streets. Much of that was dragged there to slow the traffic, of which there is very little these days.

A few knots of fighters suspend out on street corners. They don't look up at the sound of a jet above your head — the NATO planes circling on their no-fly zone patrols.

In recent weeks, the eastern front of the clash between rebel fighters and Gadhafi forces has moved back and forth between this city and the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf to the west. Ajdabiya has calculated value because it's the point where two major highways intersect. From here, it's just 100 miles up the coast road to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, while the desert highway offers a shortcut to Tobruk and the Egyptian border.

Sticking It Out:
But with much awareness shifted to the fighting in Misrata and other western towns, Ajdabiya feels overlooked these days.

Most of the homes on its streets are very empty, their owners having fled farther east to get out of the crossfire. Behind a few doors, still, some families are sticking it out.

"It's really terrifying for the children," she says. "They can't go out and play anymore. They're afraid of rockets, so they're always hiding inside the house."

Her husband, Mohammed, says the entire city became a battleground when government forces invaded. But even though those units were pushed back, a sense of danger has remained.

"After 5:00 we don't go out of the house," he says. "There were rocket attacks that fell on the house next door. It's scary."

He says they get some food from the Red Crescent, mainly for the children, but it's not enough. Sometimes they're able to get some canned goods from the city's western gate, where rebel fighters keep an eye out for pro-government forces.

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