News From Libya, Saturday Night.

With nightfall, Bryan Denton and I are back from the front lines near Brega. With Kareem Fahim and David Kirkpatrick, we’ll have an update soon on the NATO airstrike on a rebel column.

First, here is the link, as promised, to the At War post describing the rebels’ attack on Brega on Friday, which was thwarted by artillery and machine gun fire from forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Bryan Denton (@bdentonphoto on Twitter) has a strong run of photographs from that failed attack and hasty retreat. We’ll try to get them embedded in the At War post later.

Meanwhile, here is today’s initial story on the blue-on-blue airstrike at the edge of Brega last night.


Libyan rebels have been turning up at the front with all manner of small arms. Most of their light weapons fall within the familiar suite of former Eastern bloc equipment. But each day unusual items appear. This man is holding an MP-38, the German submachine gun that soon evolved into the MP-40, one of the Wehrmacht’s most successful and well-known shoulder-fired arms during World War Two.

Have a close look. See what’s missing? The magazine. This gentleman did not not have one; nor did he have 9x19-mm Parabellum rounds the MP-38 fires. Rebels who show up with unusual weapons often find no ammunition or supporting equipment at the front. On the battle lines in Libya, this MP-38 is a curio and a symbol; it suggests this man’s strong sense of identity with the rebel’s cause. But it is not any more of a weapon than, say, a plumber’s wrench. It also serves as a reminder of a point we often make here: Small arms are a system. When supplies of ammunition or component parts runs dry, the system ceases to work. This is how many classes of former popular weapons finally leave the battlefield. (In this case, the shortage is of magazines; the MP-38’s ammunition is readily available worldwide, and visible in rebel hands in Libya.) Photo by the author. Today.


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