libyan rebels sirte 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces bombarded the Western Libyan city of Misrata on Monday, a rebel spokesman told Al Jazeera television.
defends Libya strategy to domestic criticsWest
strikes Libyan forces; NATO sees 90-day campaign
Earlier Western forces backed up rebels in Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace, bombing the town from the air and leading to several casualties, according to Libyan state news agency Jana.
"The crusader and colonial bombing targeted inhabited areas in the city of Sabha at dawn on Monday, causing the destruction of several houses," the agency reported. "Ambulances and firefighter teams rushed to those areas."
"Sources at the Health Ministry in Sabha spoke of several casualties among civilians in those areas."
Early Monday morning, a Libyan rebel spokesperson said that Sirte had been captured. No independent verification of the rebel statement was immediately available.
A Reuters reporter in Sirte said on Monday there was no indication the city was under rebel control, despite reports from rebel headquarters in Benghazi that it had been captured.
"It looks pretty normal from what we have seen," said the reporter, on a Libyan government-organized trip to Sirte. He said he had seen some police and military in the town, but no signs of any fighting.
Emboldened by the help of the air strikes, the rebels have rapidly
reversed military losses in their five-week insurgency and regained
control of all the main oil terminals in eastern Libya, as far as the
town of Bin Jawad.
A Reuters reporter in Sirte heard
four blasts on Sunday night. It was unclear if they were in the town or
The reporter also saw a convoy of 20 military vehicles including
truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns leaving Sirte and moving westwards
towards Tripoli, along with dozens of civilian cars carrying families
and stuffed with personal belongings.
The advance along Libya's Mediterranean coast by a poorly armed and
uncoordinated force of volunteer rebels suggested that Western strikes
under a UN no-fly zone were shifting the battlefield dynamics
dramatically, in the east at least.
The rebels are now back in control of the main oil terminals in the east
-- Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Zueitina and Tobruk -- while Gaddafi
appears to be retrenching in the west.
Libyan state TV broadcast what it said was live footage of Gaddafi in a
car in his Tripoli compound on Sunday, where hundreds of supporters waved green
flags and chanted slogans. Gaddafi could not be seen in the white car
but the TV said he was in it.
On Sunday, NATO agreed to take full command of military operations in
Libya after a week of heated negotiations, officials said, as Washington
seeks to scale back its role in another Muslim country after operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Western air strikes had "eliminated" Gaddafi's ability to move his heavy weapons.
Gates also raised the possibility that Gaddafi's government could
splinter and said an international conference in London on Tuesday would
discuss political strategies to help bring an end to Gaddafi's 41-year
Libya accused NATO of "terrorizing" and killing its people as part of a
global plot to humiliate and weaken the North African country.
The government says Western-led air attacks have killed more than 100
civilians, a charge denied by the coalition which says it is protecting
civilians from Gadaffi's forces and targeting only military sites to
enforce the no-fly zone.
"The terror people live in, the fear, the tension is everywhere. And
these are civilians who are being terrorized every day," said Mussa
Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman.
"We believe the unnecessary continuation of the air strikes is a plan to
put the Libyan government in a weak negotiating position. NATO is
prepared to kill people, destroy army training camps and army
checkpoints and other locations."
Ibrahim acknowledged that rebel forces in the east were advancing
westwards but declined to give any details on the retreat of government
He said three Libyan civilian sailors were killed in a coalition air
strike on a fishing harbor in the city of Sirte on Saturday.