As Libya’s armed forces, under the command of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi and his sons, showed they were prepared to shoot against their own people, the rebel civilian population of the country began to arm itself and fight back. Central to this insurgency was the “Technical” – essentially a flatbed truck mounted with weapons. Relatively easy to prepare, and perfectly suited to high-speed fighting over Libya’s deserts, Technicals have proved vital to the rebel cause.
What do you do if you’re a farmer and you want to fight your government? Abdul had only ever used his Dodge Ram Turbo Diesel to transport crops, sheep and goats before he decided to convert it into a gilla – an improvised fighting vehicle. His task was made easier once the national army fled its base in Benghazi in the first days of the revolution, leaving behind its weapons. Abdul found an anti-aircraft gun there, and the rocket launcher from a Russian helicopter.
According to rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani, by March 24 about 17,000 rebels were facing Qaddafi’s army, which, according to the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, is 50,000 strong. On top of these 50,000 are the Colonel’s 3,000 personal guards and his Islamic Pan African Brigade of around 2,500 mercenaries from Chad, Niger and Sudan.
The rebel forces in the east Libyan territories of Benghazi and Tobruk armed themselves with whatever they could find, from AK47s to ZU-23-2 Soviet anti-aircraft guns. But perhaps their most important weapons are the hammers and welding machines used in Benghazi and Misrata’s secret workshops, where blacksmiths and repairmen attach weapons to civilian 4x4 pick-up trucks.
After two days of modifications to his pick-up, Abdul was ready to head for the front line, where he is on duty for 12 hours at a time. “Accuracy can be an issue,” he says. “The anti-aircraft gun can swivel, but the rockets only fire in the direction the car is pointing. They have a range of four to five kilometers so if it doesn’t reach Qaddafi’s army you have to drive closer. Sometimes we can’t even see where they land or if we’ve killed anybody.
Get away as quickly as you can, swerving from side to side – never drive in a
Abdul, 42, near Ajdabiya, Libya
“Qaddafi’s weapons are more powerful than ours. They have a longer range and when you come under attack you have to get away as quickly as you can, swerving from side to side. Never drive in a straight line as you become an easy target. But when I am on the front line I am not scared; I am only scared of Allah. In the future I dream of being free, and then we will see about the rest.”
Your enemy has Russian-made Sukhoi bomber jets, 117 helicopters, over 650 tanks and a leader who refers to you and everyone else who defies him as “cockroaches” and “rats.” You only have your pick-up truck. Find some weaponry and get over to your local secret workshop to have it installed.
From Afghanistan to Sudan to Libya, the Toyota Hilux pick-up is the favored vehicle for making Technicals. In the 1987 Libya-Chad war, Chadian Technical drivers discovered that if a Hilux is driven through a minefield at over 100 kilometers an hour, it won’t detonate the mines. And the open-back is five-meters long and 1.7-meters wide –perfect for all sorts of weaponry.
An obsolete Chinese rocket launcher from the 1960s. You’re most likely to find one in Cambodia, Iraq, Nicaragua, Sudan or Libya.
Long a favorite of irregular forces the world over, from groups in Northern Ireland to bands of Somalian pirates, the RPG-7 can’t be fixed to your pickup, but it’s useful, nonetheless.
The US-built M1919 is still in service with NATO armed forces, even if its design has barely changed since 1919.
This anti-tank weapon only fires a single shot. So aim well and get ready to run: after you fire the backblast will make you visible for miles around.
The Afghan army has 5,000 of these, India has 800 and the Libyan army used to have 450. How many it still has, after rebels seized some and NATO planes bombed others, is unknown.
Originally attached to Soviet Mi-24 helicopters, this pod can be attached to a Technical and still fire its 32 rockets, although there is no way to aim them effectively.
This is the most common heavymachine gun in use on Technicals.
Nicknamed Dushka (“Sweetie” inRussian), this Soviet-era weapon has seen action in every Middle Easternconflict over the past four decades.
Phased out of service in Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries during the mid-1970s, this heavy machine gun is now mainly to be found in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.