'At least 30 killed in Zawiyah clashes near Tripoli'

Conflicting reports say between 30 and 50 people dead, up to 300 wounded; anti-Gaddafi rebels fire mortars, rockets at military base in Ras Lanuf, army returns fire with heavy artillery.

By REUTERS
March 4, 2011 20:44
4 minute read.
Libyan flag seen over protesters in Zawiyah.

zawiyah fighting libya_311 reuters. (photo credit: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters)

RABAT - At least 30 civilians were killed on Friday when security forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi tried to retake Zawiyah, a town near the capital that has for days been defying his rule, two residents said.

"I have been to hospital less than 15 minutes ago. Dozens were killed and more were wounded. We have counted 30 dead civilians. The hospital was full. They could not find space for the casualties," Zawiyah resident Mohamed told Reuters by telephone.

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"We receive updates from the hospital and they say the number of casualties is rising," he added.

Among the dead was the town's rebel commander.

Another resident, Ibrahim, said between 40 and 50 people were killed in the clashes. Al Jazeera quoted a witness saying more than 50 people had been killed and 300 wounded there.

Their accounts could not be immediately verified. 

The rebellion in Zawiyah -- the closest rebel-held territory to the capital and also the site of an oil refinery -- has been an embarassment to the authorities who are trying to show they control at least the west of the country.

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Protests erupt in capital; Interpol issues alert against Gaddafi

Throughout the day on Friday, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces battled rebels on several fronts and unrest erupted in the capital when gunmen fired to break up crowds shouting "Gaddafi is the enemy of God".

Paris-based Interpol delivered a global alert against Gaddafi and 15 members of his inner circle to help police around the world enforce UN sanctions aimed at ending turmoil in the world's 12th largest oil exporter.



Vowing "victory or death", eastern-based rebels pressed home a westwards push towards Gaddafi's Tripoli stronghold with an attack on the oil town of Ras Lanuf, which lies on a strategic coastal road, claiming to have taken its airport.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels fired a sustained barrage of mortar bombs and rockets at a military base in Ras Lanuf and the army returned fire with artillery.

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"There are lots of flames, thuds and bangs. There is the wailing of sirens and puffs of smoke in the air," said Reuters correspondent Mohammed Abbas who could see the battlefield.

"More and more rebels with heavy artillery are streaming by to the front-line," said Abbas, adding "an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a truck and an anti-tank gun were the latest to go by". It was not clear if there had been any casualties in the exchange of fire.

Rebels were firing their assault rifles at helicopters overhead which fired machine guns at the rebel positions. A helicopter fired a missile which failed to explode.

Austria, UK widen asset freeze on Gaddafi

As international efforts progressed to isolate the Libyan leader, Austria widened an asset freeze list to include a top official at the Libyan Investment Authority, Mustafa Zarti, because of possible ties to Gaddafi's inner circle.

Zarti, 40, will be questioned by Austrian authorities on Friday, interior ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said.

Zarti told Austrian radio he had no clue how much money the Gaddafi clan might have amassed in the Alpine republic.

Britain also extended a freeze on assets to a further 20 members of Gaddafi's entourage on Friday, and has impounded around 100 million pounds ($160 million) of Libyan currency.

Around 2 billion pounds of assets belonging to Libyan interests are believed to have been frozen in Britain under sanctions against Gaddafi's government after its violent crackdown on protests against Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

The asset freeze was imposed last week and initially applied only to Gaddafi and his immediate family. It now extends to 26 people.

ICC says Gaddafi could be investigated for war crimes

In The Hague, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi and members of his inner circle could be investigated for possible war crimes committed since the uprising broke out in mid-February.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague in the Netherlands, Moreno-Ocampo said the crimes include claims that Gaddafi used violence against peaceful forces demonstrating across the North African nation. The list comprises between 13-15 individuals, and includes Gaddafi's head of personal security, and the head of external security forces among others.

Moreno-Ocampo added that the Arab League unanimously agrees with the suggestion, and that there will be "no impunity in Libya." He said that a government may not attack their own civilians, and such actions constitute crimes against humanity.


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