Skip to main content

Desert border crossing sees refugees, rally cars

By Tim Lister, CNN
Click to play
Refugees flee southern Libyan border
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At a lonely crossing on the Tunisia-Libyan border, all is quiet
  • Like much of Libya, the fate of this area is far from decided

Dhibet, Tunisia (CNN) -- The border crossing at Dhibet in southern Tunisia is not much to look at. A small police post, another for the Garde Nationale, a customs shed -- and beyond that 200 meters of no-man's land. In between here and the Libyan border, a dog -- presumably of dual nationality -- lies in the sunshine.

Behind the red-and-white-checkered barrier on the Libyan side, a handful of soldiers pace up and down. Another peers down from a roof. A truck with a large green Libyan flag draws up. A smiling Colonel Moammar Gadhafi looks down from a mural and a large banner bears the legend "Congratulations to the brother leader."

Several days ago, Libyan soldiers abandoned this remote frontier post as anti-government groups took over the town of Nalut, 70 kilometers from the border along a twisting mountain road. But on Monday Libyan troops loyal to Gadhafi returned to reclaim control of the frontier.

A Tunisian man at the border -- one of several attracted from the nearby town to witness this rare burst of activity -- excitedly shows a CNN crew cellphone video of a Libyan military helicopter that had landed with reinforcements. Another murmurs that if we want to enter Libya, he knows smuggling trails through the mountains -- forbidding ochre-colored cliffs that rise on either side of the border.

Unlike the crossing 150 miles to the north, the border at Dhibet has no crush of foreign workers desperate to escape the violence in Libya. There is a trickle of Egyptians, a few from Mali coming over, but the loudest noise is the chirping of sparrows in the customs shed.

Libya: Battle for Brega
Escape from Tripoli
RELATED TOPICS
  • Tunisia
  • War and Conflict
  • Libya

One young Egyptian who worked in a Libyan aluminum plant, talks of an odyssey from Tripoli, where he worked. Threatened by Libyan soldiers, he says he and a few friends fled south and tried to enter Algeria. When that didn't work, he ended up here. He and others say Nalut remains in the control of anti-government groups, but there is anxiety that pro-Gadhafi forces nearby will launch an assault. Like much of Libya, the fate of this area is far from decided.

In the late afternoon, there is a shift change among the handful of Tunisian soldiers deployed at the border. The new arrivals lounge against the border gate, chatting and smoking -- oblivious to the drama playing out a few miles away. A Berber shepherd swaddled in rough brown cloth minds his flock of goats just beyond the razor wire.

There is sudden movement on the Libyan side. The gate goes up and several 4x4 vehicles, caked in dust, pass through. They are, bizarrely enough, part of a rally - - "Libye 2011."

The sun slips behind the mountains, the sparrows fall quiet -- and the border at Dhibet waits for its next arrivals.

Part of complete coverage on
'Sons of Mubarak' in plea for respect
Pro-Mubarak supporters believe Egypt's former president is innocent of charges of corruption and killing protesters.
Timeline of the conflict in Libya
Fighting in Libya started with anti-government demonstrations in February and escalated into a nationwide civil war.
Who are these rebels?
After months of seeming stalemate, Libyan rebels declared they were moving in on Tripoli. But who are they?
Why NATO's Libya mission has shifted
Six months and more than 17,000 air sorties after it began, NATO's Operation Unified Protector in the skies over Libya grinds on.
Interactive map: Arab unrest
Click on countries in CNN's interactive map to see the roots of their unrest and where things stand today.
Send your videos, stories
Are you in the Middle East or North Africa? Send iReport your images. Don't do anything that could put you at risk.
Libya through Gadhafi's keyhole
Behind the official smiles for the cameras some people in Libya's capital are waiting for the rebels, reports CNN's Ivan Watson.
How Arab youth found its voice
Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi not only ignited a series of revolts but heralded the first appearance of Arab youth on the stage of modern history.
 
Quick Job Search