Libyan rebels say forces reach oil town of Brega

Gaddafi forces attack only big rebel stronghold left in west, Misrata; developments come after rebels recapture Ajdabiyah.

March 26, 2011 19:48
2 minute read.
Rebel fighters in Libya

Rebel fighters in Libya 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

Libyan rebel fighters have reached the outskirts of the oil-exporting town of Brega on Saturday after taking Ajdabiyah from Muammar Gaddafi's forces, a rebel spokesman said.

"They are now, as we speak, on the outskirts of the city of Brega," Colonel Ahmed Bani, a rebel military spokesman, said at a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Brega is 70 km to the west of Ajdabiyah.

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Bani said the recapture by rebels of Ajdabiyah, a gateway from western Libya to Benghazi, meant "the winds of change have now started to blow."

Also on Saturday, forces loyal to Gaddafi launched attacks on rebel-held Misrata from the west and the east, shelling the city's port with mortars and artillery, a rebel told Reuters.

Misrata is the only big rebel stronghold left in the west of Libya and it is cut off from the main rebel force fighting Gaddafi's troops in the east of the country. It has been encircled and under bombardment for weeks.

"Gaddafi forces are attacking Misrata from the west and east side. [There is] heavy shelling," the rebel, called Saadoun, told Reuters by phone. From the west, he said tanks were advancing from the coastal road towards the city.

"They are also trying to bring in soldiers," he said.

"From the east, they are shelling with mortars and artillery the port and areas around it. There is the main fuel tank in the port which feeds the central part of the city."

He said there were thousands of workers, mainly Egyptians, at the port who had fled and stayed there hoping for rescue.

A rebel spokesman earlier said pro-Gaddafi forces had eased their bombardment of Misrata after Western air strikes hit some of their positions.

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But a resident said pro-Gaddafi snipers were still shooting at people from rooftops in the center of the town and that the death toll during the past week had reached 115 people, including several children.

Western aircraft and missiles have been increasing their raids on government positions there -- a step the coalition says is part of its mandate, going beyond enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and also protecting civilians from attack.

"The allied planes are in the sky above Misrata and they have bombed locations of the (pro-Gaddafi) forces in the outskirts," the rebel spokesman, Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq, earlier told Reuters by telephone from Misrata.

"The shelling of Misrata has eased. There was heavy shelling earlier. We know the allied planes have made several raids and bombed several locations in the outskirts. We know they bombed an ammunition site inside the air base [south of the city]."

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