Libya rebels regroup in attempt to reclaim coastal city

Heavy gun fire, thuds of mortars heard as rebels move back towards Bin Jawad after Gaddafi forces eject anti-gov't protesters from coastal city.

By REUTERS
March 6, 2011 17:08
3 minute read.
Libyan protesters

Libya protests 311 Reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

Rebels in east Libya regrouped on Sunday and moved back towards Bin Jawad after forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi had ambushed rebels and ejected them from the town earlier in the day, a Reuters witness said.

"We are just outside Bin Jawad. There are thuds of mortars landing near rebel positions, leaving puffs of smoke, and also the sound of heavy machine guns in the distance," Reuters correspondent Mohammed Abbas said in a brief report.

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Earlier on Sunday, forces loyal to Gaddafi attacked rebels in Bin Jawad, a town between rebel-held Ras Lanuf and Sirte on the coast, rebel fighters said.

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One fighter, returning wounded from Bin Jawad, said the Gaddafi loyalists had attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Ambulances rushed casualties from Bin Jawad to Ras Lanuf, an oil port 660 km (410 miles) east of Tripoli. The rebels took Ras Lanuf on Friday.

Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, is less than 100 km (60 miles) west of Bin Jawad.

"People tell us in Bin Jawad there are Gaddafi forces. Some rebels have been hit by snipers," Khamis al-Libi, a rebel fighter, said. "They have RPGs, and machine guns," added Mansour Mayloud, another fighter. "There's been an attack on Bin Jawad."

Witnesses said a warplane attacked Ras Lanuf early on Sunday, but there were no casualties.

Mixed reports as to who controls coastal cities

Meanwhile, there were mixed reports as to whether Gaddafi's forces had recaptured the important coastal cities of Zawiyah and Misrata from rebels. State television declared that the cities were both back in pro-government hands.

Misrata residents, however, rejected the state television report that government forces had re-captured it.

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"The town is fully in the control of the revolutionaries. It has been in their hands for about two weeks. It is calm now. There is no fighting, thank God," the resident, who did not want to be named, told Reuters by telephone.

Government forces were also heading for Libya's second largest city Benghazi in the country's east, epicenter of a two-week-old revolt against Gaddafi's 41-year rule in the oil-producing North African country.

Machinegun fire in Benghazi

Earlier in the morning, heavy automatic weapons fire erupted in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the first such outbreak in Gaddafi's main stronghold during the two-week-old insurrection.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim denied any fighting was under way in Tripoli, saying the gunfire was staged to fete the army's recapture of several cities from rebel forces.

It was unclear who was doing the shooting, which started just before daybreak, or what had caused it. Machine gun volleys, some of them heavy calibre, reverberated around central Tripoli along with ambulance sirens, pro-Gaddafi chants, and a cacophony of car horns as vehicles sped through the vicinity.


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