'Eight Libyan rebels killed by Gaddafi's forces'

Rebels in gun battles with regime in northwest as they attempt to isolate Tripoli; rebel oil chief says West not delivering promised aid.

By REUTERS
June 18, 2011 17:55
2 minute read.
Libyan rebels assemble weapons in Misrata

Libyan Rebels Misrata 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

TRIPOLI/DAFNIYAH, Libya - Fighting between forces loyal to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and rebels trying to close in on his territory killed at least eight rebels near the northwestern city of Nalut on Saturday, an insurgent source said.

The gun battles in the village of Takut, just outside Nalut, followed exchanges of heavy artillery fire near the city of Zlitan as the insurgents tried to take government-held territory east of the capital Tripoli.

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The rebels are seeking to seal off Tripoli from the east and west but their advances have been slow and weeks of NATO strikes pounding Gaddafi's compound and other targets have failed to bring an end to his 41-year-old rule.

"The battles started yesterday and are continuing today in Takut," the fighter, Abou Saa, told Reuters from Nalut, in arid hills some 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Tripoli.

"The revolutionaries destroyed six armoured vehicles and killed more than 45 enemy soldiers. The rebels surrounded Gaddafi's forces, who are holed up in a compound (in Takut)."

He added that 13 rebels were wounded in the fighting.

Rebel oil chief accuses West of not providing promised aid

Meanwhile on Saturday, Libya's rebel oil chief accused the West of failing to keep up its promises to deliver urgent financial aid, saying his authority had now run out of cash completely after months of fighting.

Speaking to Reuters in a rare interview in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, oil and finance minister Ali Tarhouni said all crude oil production had now come to a standstill due to damage caused by the fighting.

"We don't have any (cash). We are running out of everything," he said. "It's a complete failure. Either they (Western nations) don't understand or they don't care."

He added: "We are not producing any oil because of the damage. I don't expect us to produce oil any time soon. The refineries have no crude oil, so they are not working."

Asked how the rebel authority would survive, he said: "People died for this revolution and are still dying. We will find a way. One thing is for sure: We will never give up."

Tarhouni said the rebel government was holding direct talks with foreign companies on future cooperation, adding that he had no qualms about dealing with those had earlier worked closely with Gaddafi's government in the capital Tripoli.

Asked which companies he was talking to, he named Germany's Wintershall and France's Total.

"We need help, we said we respect and abide by all contracts. The only enemy that I have is Gaddafi and his killers and thugs," he said. "In terms of commerce and companies I have no enemies."

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