How Rebels Hijacked Gadhafi's Phone Network
System allows for critical battlefield communications
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2011 7:40 AM CDT
A man who used to work in Libya and fled the unrest in the country, holds mobile phones as he recharges them in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Until a week and a half ago, rebel forces in Libya were waving flags at each other to communicate on the battlefield, because Moammar Gadhafi had cut off their telephone and Internet service. But now that’s all changed thanks to a plan a Libyan-American telecom executive drew up on an airplane napkin, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ousama Abushagur, a 31-year-old raised in Huntsville, Ala., and currently living in Abu Dhabi, had the idea while delivering humanitarian aid to the rebels in February.

On the flight home he drew up his plan to hijack Libyana, the cellphone network run by Gadhafi’s oldest son. The Chinese company that supplies Libyana refused to help him, so he turned to the governments of the UAE and Qatar, which helped buy millions of dollars worth of equipment and get it into Benghazi. Once there, Libyan engineers helped fuse it into the Libyana network, freeing it from Gadhafi’s control. And without a billing system in place, "Free Libyana," as the new network has been dubbed, is actually free, notes the Journal.