UCLA student on summer break reportedly joins Libyan rebels
A UCLA student is gaining international attention for his summer break trip. Chris Jeon apparently traveled nearly 7,000 miles to Libya and has reportedly joined a brigade of rebels fighting the forces of ousted leader Moammar Kadafi.
In an interview with The National, an English-language newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, Jeon, 21, said he decided only two weeks ago to make the perilous journey because “this is one of the only real revolutions” in the world.
He reportedly was with rebel fighters who were among the first to enter the city of Nawfaliyah after it was taken over from Kadafi’s troops. Jeon apparently speaks no Arabic and communicates mostly using sign language. But he appears to have ingratiated himself with the rebels and has been staying with the fighters and their families, the report said.
In a photo, he wears a blue basketball jersey with the words "Los Angeles" and the number 44, while holding what appears to be an AK-47 assault rifle.
A UCLA spokeswoman confirmed that Jeon is a student in the class of 2013. He is listed as a classics major, although media accounts have reported his major as math. His Facebook page lists his hometown as Cypress.
UCLA spokeswoman Claudia Luther said university officials had no independent knowledge of Jeon's travels but had seen media accounts. "We’ve got thousands of students on summer break, and of course we would have no way of knowing what they do during their time away," she said.
Jeon told the Emirates newspaper that he bought a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Cairo, traveled by train to Alexandria, took buses to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi and then hitched rides towards the capital of Tripoli.
The rebels -- and Jeon -- were reportedly on their way to launch an assault on Kadafi’s hometown of Surt.
-- Carla Rivera