On the NYT: Libyan Rebels Advance.

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Follow the link to the NYT report that Bryan Denton and I filed earlier, which went live a few minutes ago. (With help from Kareem Fahim.)

The rebels have moved forward. Time will tell what it means, but perhaps a stalemate is cracking. Certainly some of the Qaddafi units in the field are showing signs of strain.

Even as the fight moves down the roads again, some of the sights are head-spinning. Today a rebel commander proudly — ok, maybe mischievously — pulled me aside to show me a new weapon. Have a look.

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These are sections of scored pipe, packed with explosives and closed with plumbers’ fittings to become home-made pineapple grenades. The commander, who does not want to have face shown, had a bag of them.

Or how about this? It’s a shotgun, sort of. Basically it’s a section of framing lumber fashioned into a stock, and joined to a threaded pipe (I mean, barrel) and outfitted with a simple home-made trigger. It has a cocking mechanism as well, which draws and locks back a spring-loaded firing pin that the trigger releases, causing this “weapon” to “fire.”

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The young man who carried it volunteered a demonstration (short of firing it, which I asked him not to do, for ethical reasons). The barrel has to be unscrewed to load a single 12-gauge shell. Then it has to screwed back on tight for firing. Then it has be unscrewed anew for removing the spent shell and inserting another. Have a look at the sights. Oh, that’s right. There aren’t any sights. 

Would you like to carry this weapon — range perhaps 40 or 50 yards, rate of fire perhaps a round every minute or two, aiming = instinctual, add windage as you see fit — against an army equipped with tanks, rockets, artillery, mortars and all manner of automatic weapons?

Libyans have turned out with most anything to fight in this revolution. Some might say this is foolishness. Others, including many of those who carry these virtually useless arms, say it is a sign of the intensity with which they want Qaddafi to go. Wherever you care to stand on that, this is what a civilian uprising looks like.

Now forget the weapons for a moment. Look more closely at these rebels. Look at their clothes. Really, look. We’ve covered the rebels’ workshops and the grassroots ways that people of many skills have tried to help their city’s fighters. Their work goes on. More people seem to be joining the fight. And today the rebels were moving forward.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS

That’s Paul Conroy — at top, (toward the right, in white tee and helmet), an old-hand shooting now for The Sunday Times — as a few rounds went cracking past, high. By the author. This afternoon, outside Ad Dafiniyah.

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