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Last updated at 14:55 BST, Monday, 13 June 2011

Libyan rebels get weapons through Tunisia

Summary

13 June 2011

The BBC has learnt that Libyan rebels are smuggling weapons through Tunisia to fight Colonel Gaddafi's forces in Western Libya. Rebel commanders say they have a process to collect the weapons from their fighters if they win.

Reporter:
Pascale Harter

A Libyan rebel with AK-47

Rebels say they need more weapons to help end the war

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Report

Members of the Libyan diaspora are funding the purchase of small arms to smuggle into Western Libya, according to one Libyan smuggler who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

He told the BBC that AK-47s and grenade launchers are being taken across the border by individuals, in small but frequent consignments.

A rebel commander in western Libya said his forces kept a record of each fighter and the serial number of their weapons, so they could be collected when the war was over.

Commander Ahbeel Dody appealed for NATO countries to send more and heavier weapons through Tunisia officially. He said a shortage in the Nafusa mountains, where towns have gained ground in frequent clashes with Colonel Gaddafi's forces, was prolonging the war.

But the fledgling Tunisian government is fearful of giving overt support to the rebels. Colonel Gaddafi's forces are on the border, and shelling often spills over.

Tunisian border guards are under orders to search each car going in to Libya. But the Libyan smuggler speaking to the BBC says that many Tunisians are sympathetic and help get arms in to the rebels.

Pascale Harter, BBC News, Tunisia

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Vocabulary

diaspora

communities of a particular nationality who no longer live in their home country

small arms

weapons that soldiers can carry

on condition of anonymity

with an agreement that their name and identity will be kept secret

consignments

quantities of goods which are sent from one place to another

gained ground

had some success

clashes

battles

prolonging the war

making the conflict last longer

fledgling

new and inexperienced

overt support

help and assistance which is not secret or hidden

spills over

misses its target and lands in other nearby areas

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