Battle Trucks of the Libyan Insurgency

Beautiful, brutal, and poignant.

James Mollison

The Arab Spring actually started in December. Protesting police corruption and abuse in Tunisia, a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi doused his body with gasoline and lit himself on fire in the street. By the time he succumbed to his injuries on January 4, 2011, a wave of unrest was spreading across the Arab world. Oman, Yemen, Syria. Finally, the revolution reached Libya.

And, of all the autocratic revolts, Libya’s turned out to be the bloodiest. Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade-long rule had been complicated, messy, at times ruthless and tyrannical, not unlike the Italian fascism of Libya’s colonial era. Whereas the leaders of Tunisia and Yemen and Syria wound up deposed, Qaddafi fought back. He sent his army to attack the protesters, so civilians started arming themselves to fight back. Enter: “The Technical,” an improvised flatbed combat truck with mounted artillery.

For Qaddafi, it was déjà vu. In 1984, Chadian rebels staved off Libyan troops using similar trucks, a conflict so influenced by weaponized Land Cruisers that Time Magazine dubbed it the “Toyota War.” Nearly thirty years later, in May, 2011, the insurgency once again called on The Technical to defeat Muammar Qaddafi.

So award-winning photographer James Mollison traveled to Ajdabiya, Libya. He wanted to photograph the resistance’s fleet of battle trucks for COLORS Magazine. He did. Below are the results, captured on the road to the front line, just before they went into battle. These portraits are beautiful and brutal and poignant, some of the most honest automotive photography we’ve ever seen.

James Mollison

Salah and Adel, near Ajdabiya, Libya

James Mollison

Hassain and Muhammad, near Ajdabiya, Libya

James Mollison
James Mollison

Fathallah and Moftah, near Ajdabiya, Libya

James Mollison

Muhammad, Emraga, and Abdalslam, near Ajdabiya, Libya

James Mollison

Abdul and Waled, near Ajdabiya, Libya