AJDABIYA, Libya — The Libyan revolution has been tough on rebel fighter and guitarist Massoud Abu Assir's rock band. His bass player was captured by Moammar Gadhafi's forces, and his drummer is off fighting on the front line.
But those setbacks haven't stopped the 38-year-old amateur musician from composing songs in support of the revolution and performing them for rebels on the battlefield. He made an appearance Saturday on the outskirts of the front line city of Ajdabiya as fierce fighting raged about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.
"My homeland will be strong. My homeland will be free. We will take our homeland up high," he sang in folksy Arabic verse, reminiscent of a Libyan Bob Dylan.
Several dozen rebels crowded around as he sang, clapping their hands and joining in. One rebel enthusiastically fired his AK-47 in the air.
Abu Assir's own gun was slung over his shoulder, and midway through the impromptu performance, someone draped a red, black and green rebel flag on his shoulders. He was dressed in a green camouflage uniform like many of the other rebels, but his floppy curls hinted at his love for rock stars like Bob Marley and Santana.
"We are rebels. We come from the east. We are determined to do what we want," he sang in another song.
Residents of eastern Libya rose up against Gadhafi in mid-February and demanded he leave so they could set up a democratic government. Gadhafi, who has held power for more than 40 years, responded with deadly force and was only stopped from crushing the rebellion by NATO aircraft enforcing a U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone over the country.
Abu Assir joined the fight against Gadhafi from the very beginning but had to take a few days off recently because his wife is five months pregnant. He said he is not only fighting for democracy, but also for the right to perform his music. His band tried to perform on Libyan television in the past but was told they must sing songs praising Gadhafi.
"That's why I didn't sing," said Abu Assir. "I didn't want to be a hypocrite."
The battle between the rebels and Gadhafi's forces has settled into costly stalemate. The rebels lack the organization and firepower to advance west toward Tripoli, and NATO has clearly demonstrated with punishing airstrikes that it will not let Gadhafi march on the rebel-held capital Benghazi.
Rebel fighters, including Abu Assir's drummer, Omar Enazay, pushed west from Ajdabiya toward the oil town of Brega on Saturday, but were met with fierce shelling from Gadhafi's forces that killed 6 rebels and wounded more than 20 others. Abu Assir's bass player, Faisal Fakran, was captured in Brega during an earlier battle there.
Like many of the rebels, Abu Assir is desperate for NATO countries, including the United States, to intensify airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces and ship the rebels new weapons that will help them counter their opponents' firepower.
The newest song he is working on is a plea to President Barack Obama to intensify U.S. support. It's called "We are coming. Obama is coming."
"I hope Obama will hear the song and move quickly for us," said Abu Assir. "It's time for Obama to take his revenge on Gadhafi."
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