Libyan rebels recapture Ajdabiyah

Gaddafi forces pull out from the strategic city; Western air strikes hit sites controlled by Libyan forces near rebel-held Misrata.

By REUTERS
March 26, 2011 11:36
2 minute read.
Rebel fighters in Libya

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

 
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Libyan government forces pulled out from the city of Ajdabiyah on Saturday following an air assault by Western coalition forces, a senior government official said.

"They (Western forces) were heavily involved, so the Libyan armed forces decided to leave Ajdabiyah this morning," Khaled Kaim, a deputy foreign minister, told reporters.

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He also accused Western coalition forces of directly aiding rebels fighting against leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Western air strikes on Saturday hit several sites on the outskirts of rebel-held Misrata from where forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had been shelling the city, a rebel spokesman said.

"The allied planes are in the sky above Misrata and they have bombed locations of the (pro-Gaddafi) forces in the outskirts," the spokesman, called Abdelbasset, 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)," he said.

Libyan rebel fighters recaptured the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiyah earlier on Saturday after an all-night battle, though Muammar Gaddafi's forces still held the western gate, a Reuters witness and rebels said.

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"Eveyrthing was destroyed last night by our forces," said rebel fighter Sarhag Agouri.

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"Ajdabiyah is a ghost town. Now there are only dead bodies and families who don't know what to do. We are in the town but they still have the other gate," he said.

He said that the rebels attacked Gaddafi's forces at the eastern gate overnight and were fighting all night.

On Saturday morning the debris of the battle was scattered around the eastern gate, a Reuters witness said. Four destroyed Gaddafi tanks, ammunition boxes, and empty shell cases and boxes were scattered over the sand dunes, the witness said.

Western warplanes continued bombing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's armor in eastern Libya on Friday to try to break a battlefield stalemate and help rebels take the strategic town of Ajdabiyah.

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