Hazards of war reporting from the Libyan front line

September 22, 2011

By Alastair Leithead, BBC News

The television images of the war in Libya show a ramshackle bunch of rebels, firing off their guns and missiles in what seems an almost haphazard fashion, but what is it like being on the front line and reporting on the war?

It was too late to buy lamb, so camel pasta it had to be and it was not bad.

I guess the little villa on the Mediterranean would count as luxury in normal times, but Libyans are still waiting to find out what normal is going to be.

It is luxury for us – hot water, electricity, even some air-conditioning. Luxury in an oil-workers compound.

An oasis and nightly retreat from the ever-advancing front lines closing in on Sirte, where Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was born and where what is left of his army is still holding out.

We are commuting to war. For an hour and a half every morning and evening, we drive the long desert road to collect the video footage we need to put a television news report together.

Anti-Gaddafi forces sitting in a truckAnti-Gaddafi forces have been closing in on Col Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte

We dodge the potholes and sand drifts, burned-out trucks, wandering camels and erratic rebel drivers – or now I suppose, former rebels.

They are the same rag-tag band of engineers and teachers, civilians who welded guns to their pick-up trucks and took on a standing army.

But they are soldiers now. Some bring fearless, almost foolhardy bravery. The professionals among them provide planning and strategy. The advance on Sirte we are documenting has been logical, cautious, well organised and well supplied.

They have troops, tanks, artillery, air power – courtesy of Nato – and rockets. Lots of rockets. And rockets make good television.

In a long-running war, finding different or dramatic footage keeps the story in the news. Outgoing fire shows the ferocity and aggression of war.

We filmed 30m (100ft) in front of the the rockets as they were fired over our heads with a roar and trailing fire – the only warning, a quick chorus of “Allahu Akbar”.

To read more, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15007787


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