Rebels, equipped with small arms and high-caliber artillery guns mounted on pickup trucks, said they began approaching the site Tuesday night then staged the two-front attack on the Ghaaa military base, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. One group of fighters was assigned to attack the base while the other blocked reinforcements.
Rebels said the attack lasted less than 30 minutes and sent about five dozen government soldiers fleeing to a nearby base at Twama.
Until the arsenal of ammunition and weapons were seized and pillaged by rebels, local residents avoided the facility, saying they were terrified of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's wrath.
"There was no need even for the barbed wire," Mostafa Mohammad, a scholar in Britain who returned to his hometown of Zintan, about 15 miles to the north of the stockpile, told the Times. He returned to Libya after the uprising against Gadhafi's regime began in February.
Rebels have been reinvigorated in part by the International Criminal Court's decision Monday to issue arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam and brother-in-law and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi.
Speaking from The Hague, Netherlands, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Tuesday called on Gadhafi's aides to execute the arrest warrants.
He said investigations were ongoing into allegations Gadhafi followers raped civilian women and then tried to cover up the attacks.
Some analysts on Arab television networks said the Ghaaa military base was the largest arms depot in Africa, the Times said. However, many of the decades-old weapons were disassembled, making them hard to use.
"He's got missile parts everywhere, but no full missiles and rockets anywhere," said Dhaer Abdul Ali, a Justice Ministry worker who joined the rebels. "This makes it harder for us to use the weapons, but also harder for him to use them."