Captured Soldier: “I myself would die a thousand times for Qaddafi, even now,” said Mr. Mohamed, a 20-year-old soldier, lying in a hospital as a prisoner of the rebels who ousted the Libyan leader. “I love him because he gave us dignity, and he is a symbol for the patriotism of the country.”
A week after rebels breached Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli stronghold, Mr. Mohamed offered a bracing reminder of the obstacles confronting the new provisional government still taking shape. Surt, Mr. Mohamed’s hometown as well as Colonel Qaddafi’s, remains under the control of forces loyal to the Libyan leader, and so do Sabha in the south and Bani Walid in the central west.
Comments echoed more widespread sentiments among those who support the Brother Leader, as Colonel Qaddafi liked to be called. Many remember that when Colonel Qaddafi took power in 1969 Libya was a poor and almost entirely undeveloped nation of Bedouin herders whose oil wealth appeared to enrich mainly the foreign companies that exploited it. Riding the tide of soaring oil prices over the following decades, he pursued development programs that — though hobbled by corruption and inefficiency — helped turn Libya into a primarily urban country.
Mr. Mohamed, a sixth-grade dropout and son of a doorman, said Colonel Qaddafi had brought Libyans self-respect by kicking out foreign colonialists; under Colonel Qaddafi, Libyans celebrated a national holiday every year on the day the United States evacuated the air base that included the hospital where Mr. Mohamed was held.