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Posts Tagged ‘Misurata’

Blasts rock Tripoli as NATO targets Gaddafi compound

Posted by Admin on July 25, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/blasts-rock-tripoli-libya-state-tv-says-nato-001357961.html

By Missy Ryan | Reuters – 2 hrs 31 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Explosions rocked central Tripoli for the second night in a row and Britain said weeks of NATO bombardment had inflicted extensive damage on Muammar Gaddafis heavily-fortified compound.

Libya‘s leader is clinging to power despite a four-month-old NATO air campaign and a lengthening conflict with rebels seeking an end to his 41-year rule and who have seized large swathes of the North African country.

The explosions hit Tripoli at about 1 a.m. on Sunday, a day after NATO launched strikes on what it said was a military command site in Tripoli.

Major General Nick Pope, the Chief of the Defense Staff’s communications officer, said Royal Air Force aircraft struck the high perimeter walls of Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah complex.

“Gaddafi has for decades hidden from the Libyan people behind these walls. The vast Bab al-Aziziyah compound is not just his personal residence, but more importantly is also the main headquarters for his regime, with command and control facilities and an army barracks,” Pope said on Sunday.

“Successive NATO strikes in past weeks have inflicted extensive damage on the military facilities within.”

As the war drags on longer than many had initially envisaged, the West is increasingly hoping for a negotiated end.

Libya’s government also appears willing to talk. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said on Friday that Libyan representatives were ready to hold more talks with the United States and the rebels, but that Gaddafi would not quit.

Ibrahim said senior Libyan officials had a “productive dialogue” with U.S. counterparts last week in a rare meeting that followed the Obama administration’s recognition of the rebel government.

“We believe other meetings in the future … will help solve Libyan problems,” Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli. “We are willing to talk to the Americans more.”

TOUGH FIGHT

On the cusp of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, poorly armed rebels seem unlikely to quickly unseat Gaddafi.

The rebels declared advances this week but they also suffered losses near Misrata and in fighting for Brega.

On Thursday rebels said minefields slowed their advance on Brega — which they had earlier claimed to have all but captured — but that they had pushed closer to Zlitan, on the Mediterranean coast 160 km (100 miles) east of Tripoli.

It was relatively quiet on the western front near Zlitan on Sunday, with some sporadic fire from Gaddafi’s forces. Most rebels were taking shelter from the hot sun. The forward field hospital had one wounded man on Sunday and 22 on Saturday.

“We are holding this position and waiting to move forward. God willing, it will be soon,” said Salim, a 21-year-old student and rebel volunteer.

Britain’s Pope said RAF jets on patrol near Zlitan successfully struck four buildings on Saturday, which NATO surveillance had identified as command and control centres and staging posts, as well as hitting an ammunition stockpile.

Apache helicopters also struck a number of military positions between Zlitan and Khums, he said.

Zlitan is the largest city between rebel-held Misrata and the capital Tripoli and remains in Gaddafi’s control. Were the rebels to take Zlitan, attention would turn to Khums, the next large town on the coastal road to the capital.

As Western nations intensify diplomatic efforts to foster an exit from the conflict, a European diplomat said that a U.N. envoy would seek to persuade warring parties in Libya to accept a plan that envisages a ceasefire and a power-sharing government, but with no role for Gaddafi.

The diplomat said the informal proposals would be canvassed by the special U.N. envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, who has met both government and rebels several times.

Khatib, a Jordanian senator, told Reuters in Amman he hoped both sides would accept his ideas.

“The U.N. is exerting very serious efforts to create a political process that has two pillars; one is an agreement on a ceasefire and simultaneously an agreement on setting up a mechanism to manage the transitional period,” he said. He did not go into the details of that mechanism.

Hopes for a negotiated settlement are growing as Europe and the United States grapple with fiscal crises at home. This week, France said for the first time that Gaddafi could stay in Libya as long as he gives up power.

Complicating Gaddafi’s situation is the fact that the world court in The Hague seeks his arrest over crimes against humanity allegedly committed by his forces. This makes it difficult for him to find refuge outside the country.

(Additional reporting by Tim Castle in London, Nick Carey in Misrata, Jospeh Nasr in Berlin, Souhail Karam in Rabat and Lutfi Abu Aun in Tripoli; Writing by Lin Noeuihed; Editing by David Cowell)

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Libyan forces pound Misrata, 1,000 evacuated by sea

Posted by Admin on April 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110418/wl_nm/us_libya

By Michael Georgy Michael Georgy 59 mins ago

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – A chartered ship evacuated nearly 1,000 foreign workers and wounded Libyans from Misrata on Monday as government artillery bombarded the besieged city that now symbolizes the struggle against Muammar Gaddafi‘s rule.

“We wanted to be able to take more people out but it was not possible,” said Jeremy Haslam, who led the International Organization for Migration (IOM) rescue mission.

“Although the exchange of fire subsided while we were boarding … we had a very limited time to get the migrants and Libyans on board the ship and then leave.”

A rebel spokesman said four civilians were killed and five wounded by government shellfire which pounded Misrata for a fifth day on Monday. He raised Sunday’s death toll to 25, mostly civilians, because several of the wounded had died, and said about 100 had been wounded.

Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata is the rebels’ main stronghold in the west and has been under siege by pro-Gaddafi forces for the past seven weeks. Evacuees say conditions there are becoming increasingly desperate and hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed.

“The Gaddafi forces are shelling Misrata now. They are firing rockets and artillery rounds on the eastern side — the Nakl el Theqeel (road) and the residential areas around it,” Abdubasset Abu Mzeireq said on Monday morning.

The Ionian Spirit steamed out of Misrata carrying 971 people, most of them weak and dehydrated migrants mainly from Ghana, the Philippines and Ukraine, heading for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

It was second vessel chartered by the IOM, which took out nearly 1,200 migrants from Misrata last Friday.

Among the rescued group were 100 Libyans, including a child shot in the face, the IOM said in a statement.

“We have a very, very small window to get everyone out. We do not have the luxury of having days, but hours,” said IOM Middle East representative Pasquale Lupoli.

“Every hour counts and the migrants still in Misrata cannot survive much longer like this.”

Pro-Gaddafi forces have also kept up an offensive on the rebels’ eastern frontline outpost of Ajdabiyah, which rebels want to use as a staging post to retake the oil port of Brega, 50 miles to the west.

One witness said he saw around a dozen rockets land near the western entrance to Ajdabiyah on Sunday and many fighters fled as explosions boomed across the town.

Sunday marked a month since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing force to protect civilians in Libya, leading to an international air campaign.

Despite NATO air strikes against Gaddafi’s armor, rebels have been unable to hold gains in weeks of back-and-forth fighting over the coastal towns in eastern Libya.

With NATO troops bogged down in Afghanistan, Western countries have ruled out sending ground troops, a position reinforced by the British prime minister on Sunday.

“What we’ve said is there is no question of invasion or an occupation — this is not about Britain putting boots on the ground,” David Cameron told Sky News in an interview.

Scores of volunteer fighters and civilian cars carrying men, women and children on Sunday streamed east from Ajdabiyah up the coast road toward Benghazi, where the popular revolt against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule began in earnest on February 17.

The United States, France and Britain said last week they would not stop bombing Gaddafi’s forces until he left power, although when or if that would happen was unclear.

The rebels pushed hundreds of kilometers toward the capital Tripoli in late March after foreign warplanes began bombing Gaddafi’s positions to protect civilians, but proved unable to hold territory and were pushed back as far as Ajdabiyah.

JUST LIKE IRAQ?

In Tripoli, Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, said in an interview that the world had gone to war with Libya based on nothing more than rumor and propaganda.

“The biggest issue is the terrorists and the armed militia,” Saif Gaddafi told the Washington Post. “Once we get rid of them, everything will be solved.”

Government forces were hunting down “terrorists” in Misrata just as American forces did in Fallujah in Iraq.

“It’s exactly the same thing. I am not going to accept it, that the Libyan army killed civilians. This didn’t happen. It will never happen,” he said.

Once they were beaten, it would be time to talk of national reconciliation and democracy under a new constitution that would reduce his father’s role to a symbolic one, the Post quoted Saif Gaddafi as saying.

The London-educated son was once seen as a potential reformer but his comments indicated that Gaddafi was in no mood to compromise despite the international pressure. The rebels have rejected any solution that does not remove Gaddafi and his family from power.

The U.N. humanitarian affairs chief, Valerie Amos, speaking in Benghazi after a visit to Tripoli, said the government had given her no guarantees regarding her call for an overall cessation of hostilities to help the relief effort.

She also said she was extremely worried about the situation in Misrata. “No one has any sense of the depth and scale of what is happening there,” she said.”

(Additional reporting by Ashraf Fahim in Benghazi, Mussab Al-Khairalla in Tripoli, Mariam Karoumy in Beirut, Sami Aboudi in Cairo and Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers; Writing by Angus MacSwan, editing by Tim Pearce)

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France, Britain say NATO must step up Libya bombing

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110412/wl_nm/us_libya;_ylt=AqmJBrd0s6wr2JXn_UtpgotvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJkbmdjcTRvBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwNDEyL3VzX2xpYnlhBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9hcnRpY2xlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDZnJhbmNlYnJpdGFp

A rebel fighter aims a rocket at the frontline ...
A rebel fighter aims a rocket at the frontline in Ajdabiyah, April 11, 2011
By Maria Golovnina Maria Golovnina 8 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – France and Britain, who first launched air attacks on Libya in coalition with the United States, on Tuesday criticized NATO‘S bombing campaign, saying it must do more to stop Muammar Gaddafi bombarding civilians.

NATO took over air operations from the three nations on March 31 but heavy government bombardment of the besieged western city of Misrata has continued unabated with hundreds of civilians reported killed.

The criticism by London and Paris followed new shelling of Misrata on Monday and the collapse of an African Union peace initiative.

Echoing rebel complaints, Juppe told France Info radio, “It’s not enough.”

He said NATO must stop Gaddafi shelling civilians and take out heavy weapons bombarding Misrata. In a barbed reference to the alliance command of the operation, Juppe added: “NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said NATO must intensify attacks, calling on other alliance countries to match London’s supply of extra ground attack aircraft in Libya.

NATO, is operating under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians, stepped up air strikes around Misrata and the eastern battlefront city of Ajdabiyah at the weekend. It rejected the criticism.

“NATO is conducting its military operations in Libya with vigor within the current mandate. The pace of the operations is determined by the need to protect the population,” it said.

Libyan state television said on Tuesday a NATO strike on the town of Kikla, south of Tripoli, had killed civilians and members of the police force. It did not give details.

PEACE TALKS FAIL

The spat within the alliance came after heavy shelling and street fighting in the coastal city of Misrata on Monday where Human Rights Watch says at least 250 people, mostly civilians, have died.

Rebels on Monday rejected an African Union peace plan, saying there could be no deal unless Gaddafi was toppled. His son Saif al Islam said such an idea was ridiculous.

Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Tuesday thanked Western countries for the air strikes but said they could not relieve besieged cities and appealed for arms and supplies.

“NATO’s air fleet cannot deliver the occupied cities where Gaddafi’s forces, using the civilian populations as a human shield, have now taken cover,” he said in a statement, adding that the insurgents needed time to build an army capable of toppling the Libyan leader.

Abdel Jalil pointedly named French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who the rebels hail as a hero, as the leader of the coalition supporting his forces.

Sarkozy led calls for military intervention in Libya and his warplanes were the first to attack Gaddafi’s forces.

NATO is unpopular among many insurgents, both because they believe it initially reacted slowly to government attacks and because it has killed almost 20 rebels in two mistaken bombings.

Although they have recently praised the alliance after its attacks helped break a major government assault on Ajdabiyah, many of the rebels in the field still hailed Sarkozy.

Gaddafi’s forces on Tuesday bombarded the western entrance to Ajdabiyah, launch point for insurgent attacks toward the oil port of Brega on the eastern front. There were eight blasts, apparently from artillery.

Rebels said earlier they were about 40 km (25 miles) west of Ajdabiyah, a strategic crossroads that has been the focus of fierce battles in the last two months.

NATO attacks outside Ajdabiyah on Sunday helped break the biggest assault by Gaddafi’s forces on the eastern front for at least a week. The town is the gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi 150 km (90 miles) north up the Mediterranean coast.

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Gaddafi forces of executing prisoners, killing protesters and attacking refugees.

SCORN

Rebels in Misrata, their last major bastion in western Libya and under siege for six weeks, scorned reports that Gaddafi had accepted a ceasefire, saying they were fighting house-to-house battles with his forces.

Rebels told Reuters that Gaddafi’s forces had intensified the assault, for the first time firing truck-mounted, Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate.

The difficulty for Western nations in maintaining momentum in Libya was revealed in a Reuters/Ipsos MORI on Tuesday that found ambiguous and uncertain support for the operation among Britons, Americans and Italians.

While they supported ousting Gaddafi, they were worried about the costs of a military campaign and uncertain about the objectives. Support was more solid in France.

Gaddafi’s former foreign minister Moussa Koussa, speaking in Britain where he fled last month, said on Tuesday the war risked making Libya a failed state like Somalia.

Koussa, who will attend an international meeting on Libya’s future in Doha on Wednesday, called for national unity in an interview with the BBC.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Ajdabiyah, Souhail Karam and Richard Lough in Rabat, Christian Lowe in Algiers, John Irish in Paris, Adrian Croft in Luxembourg; Writing by Barry Moody; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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NATO general: ‘We’re doing a great job’ in Libya

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110412/ap_on_re_eu/libya_diplomacy;_ylt=AqKenJswHYuJzvqlFth6Hh9vaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJrNm03bm42BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNDEyL2xpYnlhX2RpcGxvbWFjeQRwb3MDMQRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA25hdG9nZW5lcmFsdw–

A wounded rebel fighter is carried away toa hospital on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya.

1 hr 13 mins ago

BRUSSELS — A NATO general is rejecting French criticism of the operation in Libya, saying the alliance is performing well and protecting civilians.

France’s foreign minister said earlier Tuesday that NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces. Alain Juppe told France-Info radio, “NATO has to play its role in full.”

Dutch Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm says the alliance was successful in enforcing an arms embargo, patrolling a no fly zone and protecting civilians.

Van Uhm says, “I think with the assets we have, we’re doing a great job.”

NATO took over command of the operation over Libya from the U.S. on March 31.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) — Libya’s former Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is traveling to Doha to share his insight on the workings of Moammar Gadhafi‘s inner circle, British government officials said Tuesday, as NATO searches for solutions following weeks of international airstrikes.

Koussa has been asked to attend the conference on Libya being held in Qatar as a valuable Gadhafi insider, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. News of his trip came as France’s foreign minister said NATO needed to do more to take out the heavy weaponry that has repeatedly checked the advances of opposition forces.

“NATO has to play its role in full,” Alain Juppe told France-Info radio.

Alliance officials in Brussels did not immediately respond to the criticism, but France’s frustration with the developing stalemate on the ground, where Libyan rebels have struggled to capitalize on Western air attacks, has been echoed across Western capitals.

British government officials say they hope that Koussa’s trip to Doha, where Arab and Western leaders are meeting to chart the way forward on Libya, will help give participants a better idea of how to force Gadhafi out of office.

“He’s a Gadhafi insider. He may be able to offer solutions where others are falling short,” one of the officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Koussa was “traveling today to Doha to meet with the Qatari government,” as well as Libyan rebel officials, adding that Koussa was “a free individual, who can travel to and from the U.K. as he wishes.”

Koussa had been held at a safehouse since he fled to Britain late last month, but agents from Britain’s external intelligence agency MI6 stopped questioning Koussa last week, according to the official. Koussa had been staying in a safehouse until late Monday night, according to Noman Benotman, an ex-member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and relative of Koussa who has been in regular contact with the former foreign minister since he fled to Britain.

Although Koussa was provided with legal advice, Benotman said he believed he had “cleared most of the legal hurdles in the U.K.” surrounding his alleged involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and arming the Irish Republican Army.

Meanwhile France and Britain sent out conflicting signals about the need to provide succor to the rebel-held city of Misrata, which has been subjected to weeks of punishing bombardment by Gadhafi forces. Juppe said in his interview that the EU had to do more to get humanitarian aid to Misrata, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that aid was still getting through.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Hague said the aid already delivered there did not need any military backing so far.

“Humanitarian assistance is getting through to Libya, including to Misrata. That, so far, has not needed military assistance to deliver it,” Hague said.

The European Union said over the weekend it is ready to launch a humanitarian mission in Misrata soon, with possible military support, if it gets the necessary backing from the U.N.

Meanwhile, IHH, an Islamic aid group in Turkey, said it will send an aid ship to Misrata on Wednesday, carrying food, powdered milk, infant formula, medicines and a mobile health clinic.

The IHH has a self-declared mission to assist Muslims in the region. It deployed dozens of activists, including doctors, two days after the Libyan uprising began in February and established a tent city and a soup kitchen at the border crossing with Tunisia.

Last year, Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists, including one American dual national, in a raid on Mavi Marmara, an IHH-sponsored ship that was trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip carrying aid supplies.

The soldiers said they opened fire after coming under attack by a mob of activists wielding clubs, axes and metal rods. The activists said they were defending themselves.

Angela Charlton in Paris, Raf Casert in Luxembourg and Selcan Hacaoglu in Turkey contributed to this report.

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US- NATO Bombings continue as hundreds die and thousands flee

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

Global Research, March 27, 2011

Libyan operation continues as hundreds die and thousands flee

Coalition forces leave Colonel Gaddafi‘s air defense in tatters, but on the ground tensions remain high; according to reports, at least 114 people have been killed in the first four days of the operation while 300,000 have already fled the country.

Saturday was marked by the rebels gaining control over Ajdabiya – a key gateway to the oil reserves in the country’s east. Unconfirmed reports also claim the rebels have advanced beyond Ajdabiya, toward the town of Brega.

The victory marks the first major turnaround in the uprising, and many believe it could not have been achieved without the international air strikes on Gaddafi’s troops.

On Friday, British and French planes destroyed Gaddafi’s artillery battery and armored vehicles located in and around Ajdabiya.

Saturday, on the outskirts of Misrata, allied aviation initiated an attack on forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi that had been shelling the city occupied by rebels.

Rebel forces had been struggling for over a week to recapture some of the towns in the East that they had lost. But the road to Tripoli is lined with government forces, and the fight on the ground is intense.

The US military command claims allied forces are currently focusing on ruining the communications and supply lines between Gaddafi’s military units, not bombing the cities themselves and risking the lives of civilians, AP reports.

The rebel’s political front – the Transitional National Council – addressed a letter to the French government, thanking its military forces for their help in containing the loyalist forces.

The people of Libya consider you their liberators,” the statement reads.

The letter further relays the rebels’ desire to carry on the fight without international help.

However, the question of civilian deaths on the ground remains a major issue. Libyan state television is continuously reporting that the number of civilian deaths stands at more than a hundred, while people in the capital city remain particularly worried.

In Tripoli people woke up to fresh explosions amid fears of more bloodshed on Saturday, as three explosions rocked the area in and around the suburbs. For the third straight night the suburb of Tajura was hit. Also, the town of Zliten which is 160 kilometers to the East of Tripoli was hit with air strikes. The coalition air force insists that it is targeting important facilities of Gaddafi’s air force.­

At a short overnight press conference, the Libyan government’s spokesperson announced that at least 114 people have been killed and 445 injured in the first four days of the coalition’s week long series of air strikes. It was unclear whether these deaths and injuries were actually civilians or fighters, and ascertaining exactly who is who on the casualty list remains a problem. The people are frightened of increasing death tolls among civilians and soldiers alike.

The American military has announced that the coalition has fired 16 Tomahawk missiles and flown 153 air sorties in the last 24 hours.

NATO to take over coalition leadership

NATO is gearing up to replace the US in leading the campaign in Libya. It has been agreed that the alliance would take control of the mission on Sunday night. The fundamental question as NATO moves forward to lead the coalition is whether or not its involvement will result in an increase of casualties.

Russia’s top general, Nikolay Makarov, said NATO might even go so far as to resort to the use of ground troops if it aims to overthrow Gaddafi in the end, because the coalition’s “aerial operation seems to have yielded no results.”

Meanwhile, coalition forces have supplied NATO with an additional 25 warships and submarines, as well as 50 fighter jets to help enforce a naval blockade and prevent weapons and mercenaries from entering Libya.

The operation, dubbed “Unified Protector”, was launched on Wednesday and involves the UK, US, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands and Greece.

“The NATO ships will be located in international waters, without entering the territorial waters of Libya. Although the alliance cannot cut off all the roads to this country, it can block the most direct and obvious one – the delivery of weapons to the country by sea,” ITAR Tass news agency cited the statement.

Fabrizio Tassinari from the Danish Institute for International Studies says the operation in Libya is proving to be another key test for the EU and NATO, and there is no sign of how it will conclude.

“Definitely there is no clear understanding of what the endgame of this mission is supposed to be,” he says. “The idea of ground troops which has been voiced by some of the coalition forces is not something that was mentioned in the UN Resolution [1973]. So clearly that would be a step beyond what some of the parties, especially from the Arab world would like to see.”

“Also, because if the idea of ground troops becomes actual, the objective would become regime change rather than protecting the civilian population. In a way you can argue – if ground troops are not considered, the only other option by enforcing the no-fly zone is really to try and give the opposition a fair chance to overthrow Gaddafi by their own means. So they are in a whole different ball game as to looking at various options of supporting the opposition. But clearly ‘ground troops’ is not one of them, and I think the Libyan opposition or whoever is speaking for them at the moment is has been quite clear about that. They do not want Western ground troops on the ground,” Tassinari concluded.

Thousands of refugees flee the country every day

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the region has not improved much so far.

Tens of thousands of people are continuing to flee the country each day, looking for safety and better living conditions.

According to the UN, over 300,000 people have already left the country.

The main flow of refugees is occurring on Libya’s western border with Tunisia, however many people have also escaped to Egypt.

People want to stay in bordering countries to see what happens next, waiting for things to settle down.

Families fleeing from Benghazi say the humanitarian situation in the city is critical and claim they decided to leave not because their homes had been destroyed, but simply because they did not feel safe anymore.

Security has been strengthened in many Egyptian cities on the border with Libya, with soldiers and tanks patrolling the streets and providing law and order. It remains unclear whether the army’s presence is related to the military operation in Libya or the political unrest in Egypt itself.

Also, while several weeks ago the Libyan-Egyptian border was being enforced only by the Egyptian side, now it is being patrolled by both countries; there are representatives of the so-called National Police on the Libyan side.

Thus, it may seem that the opposition is gaining some control over the country and slowly implementing some discipline.

However, judging by the number of refugees, the situation within the country has not improved much and the goal of the military operation, which claimed making the lives of the civilians safer as its objective, has not yet been fulfilled.

 

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Libyan forces bombard rebels in the east and west

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

via Flickr”]Muammar al-Gaddafi  Mouammar Kadhafi  _DDC6346

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110316/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By RYAN LUCAS and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Ryan Lucas And Maggie Michael, Associated Press 26 mins ago

TOBRUK, LibyaMoammar Gadhafi intensified offensives in the east and the west Wednesday with relentless shelling aimed at routing holdout rebels and retaking control of the country he has ruled with an iron fist for more than four decades.

As Gadhafi’s forces gained momentum, the rebels lashed out at the West for failing to come to their aid.

“People are fed up. They are waiting impatiently for an international move,” said Saadoun al-Misrati, a rebel spokesman in the city of Misrata, the last rebel-held city in the west, which came under heavy shelling Wednesday.

“What Gadhafi is doing, he is exploiting delays by international community. People are very angry that no action is being taken against Gadhafi’s weaponry.”

The breakdown of rebel defenses in Ajdabiya, 480 miles (800 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, threatened to open the gateway to the long stretch of eastern Libya that has been in the control of the opposition throughout the monthlong uprising. Its fall would allow regime forces to bombard Benghazi, Libya‘s second largest city and the de facto capital of the opposition, by air, sea and land.

Gadhafi’s forces continued shelling the city of 140,000 people overnight and throughout the morning with relentless artillery fire and little resistance from the rebels.

An activist hiding out in the city said the rebels were lightly armed but still managed to ambush a group of regime troops marching into the city on foot late Tuesday, but the victory was short lived. Artillery shelling was ongoing, he said.

“The rebels set a trap and managed to take over four tanks, but now I see none of them,” Abdel-Bari Zwei said when reached by telephone. “Ajdabiya is witnessing unprecedented destruction. This is the end of the city.”

Residents in Ajdabiya fled either to tents set up outside the city or 140 miles (200 kilometers) northeast to Benghazi.

“The shelling hasn’t stopped since last night. The residential areas are under attack,” Zwei said, adding that the hospital had been overwhelmed and many of the injured had to be taken to Benghazi.

The city was besieged from the west, where Gadhafi’s brigades were deployed from his stronghold of Sirte, and from the north with a warship in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The city is sealed off from the south, from the west and the northern Zwitina port by a warship,” he said.

Libyan state television aired calls for the opposition to stop fighting, apparently hoping to sway populations in the east away from support of the rebels.

Ajdabiya has been a key supply point for the rebellion, with ammunition and weapons depots. Until now, the Gadhafi forces’ offensive toward the east has battled over two oil ports on the Mediterranean Sea, and Ajdabiya is the first heavily populated city in the area they have tried to retake.

It was a major setback to the rebels, who less than two weeks ago were poised to march on Tripoli, the capital, and had appeared capable of sweeping Gadhafi out of power, inspired by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. But the regime’s better armed and organized military has reversed the tide as efforts led by France and Britain to create a no-fly zone to protect the rebels foundered.

Oil prices rose to above $98 a barrel Wednesday in Asia as fears that clashes in Libya and the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain could further disrupt crude supplies outweighed concern Japan’s disaster will crimp demand.

Gadhafi warned rebels: “There are only two possibilities: Surrender or run away.”

He said he was not like the Tunisian or Egyptian leaders who fell after anti-government protests. “I’m very different from them,” he said in an interview published Tuesday in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale. “People are on my side and give me strength.”

In a separate appearance, Gadhafi addressed supporters in Tripoli late Tuesday, calling the rebels “rats” and blasting Western nations. “They want Libyan oil,” he said.

During his appearance, a crowd watching on a TV projection on a wall in Benghazi shouted curses and threw shoes at the image, in video broadcast live by Al-Jazeera satellite TV.

Gadhafi’s forces also launched an attack on Misrata — which for days has been under a punishing blockade, its population running out of supplies. The barrage came a day after the government recaptured the last rebel-held city west of Tripoli, solidifying his control over the coastline from the capital to the Tunisian border.

“There is coordinated shelling by Gadhafi’s brigades firing artillery and machine guns from three different city entrances,” rebel spokesman Saadoun al-Misrati said, speaking by satellite phone.

He said the shelling began at 7 a.m. and regular telephone lines had been cut.

Europe and the United States, meanwhile, were tossing back and forth the question of whether to impose a no-fly zone that the opposition has pleaded for.

On Tuesday, top diplomats from some of the world’s biggest powers deferred to the U.N. Security Council to take action against Libya, as France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone in the face of German opposition and U.S. reluctance. France said the Group of Eight agreed that a new U.N. resolution should be adopted by week’s end with measures to help Libyan rebels.

A U.N. resolution introduced Tuesday includes no-fly provisions. It also calls for increased enforcement of an arms embargo and freezing more Libyan assets, according to U.N. diplomats said who spoke on condition of anonymity because the text has not been released. One diplomat said the Security Council will be looking to see whether members of the Arab League, which is pressing for the no-fly zone, are ready to seriously participate in the establishment and operation of a zone.

The U.S. added sanctions Tuesday, banning business with Libya’s foreign minister and 16 companies it owns or controls.

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Michael reported from Cairo.

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West moves to help Libya uprising, Gadhafi digs in

Posted by Admin on February 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110228/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

TRIPOLI, Libya – The U.S. military deployed naval and air units near Libya, and the West moved to send its first concrete aid to Libya’s rebellion in the east of the country, hoping to give it the momentum to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But the Libyan leader’s regime clamped down in its stronghold in the capital and appeared to be maneuvering to strike opposition-held cities.

In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the naval and air forces were deployed to have flexibility as Pentagon planners worked on contingency plans, but did not elaborate. The U.S. has a regular military presence in the Mediterranean Sea.

The European Union slapped an arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, as British Prime Minister David Cameron told British lawmakers Monday he is working with allies on a plan to establish a military no-fly zone over Libya, since “we do not in any way rule out the use of military assets” to deal with Gadhafi’s embattled regime.

In the most direct U.S. demand for Gadhafi to step down, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Libyan leader must leave power “now, without further violence or delay.”

France was sending two planes with humanitarian aid, including medicine and doctors, to Benghazi, the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said. That would be the first direct Western aid to the uprising that has taken control of the entire eastern half of Libya. Fillon said it was the start of a “massive operation of humanitarian support” for the east and that Paris was studying “all solutions” — including military options.

The two sides in Libya’s crisis appeared entrenched in their positions, and the direction the uprising takes next could depend on which can hold out longest. Gadhafi is dug in in Tripoli and nearby cities, backed by security forces and militiamen who are generally better armed than the military. His opponents, holding the east and much of the country’s oil infrastructure, also have pockets in western Libya near Tripoli. They are backed by mutinous army units, but those forces appear to have limited supplies of ammunition and weapons.

In the two opposition-held cities closest to Tripoli — Zawiya and Misrata — rebel forces were locked in standoffs with Gadhafi loyalists.

An Associated Press reporter saw a large pro-Gadhafi force massed on the western edge of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, with about a dozen armored vehicles and tanks and jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns. An officer said they were from the elite Khamis Brigade, named after the Gadhafi son who commands it. U.S. diplomats have said the brigade is the best equipped force in Libya.

Residents inside the city said they were anticipating a possible attack.

“Our people are waiting for them to come and, God willing, we will defeat them,” one resident who only wanted to be quoted by his first name, Alaa, told AP in Cairo by telephone.

In Misrata, Libya’s third largest city 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli, Gadhafi troops who control part of an air base on the city’s outskirts tried to advance Monday. But they were repelled by opposition forces, who include residents armed with automatic weapons and army unites allied with them, one of the opposition fighters said.

He said there were no casualties reported in the clashes and claimed that his side had captured eight soldiers, including a senior officer.

The opposition controls most of the air base, and the fighter said dozens of anti-Gadhafi gunmen have arrived from further east in recent days as reinforcements.

Several residents of the eastern city of Ajdabiya said Gadhafi’s air force also bombed an ammunition depot nearby held by the opposition. One, 17-year-old Abdel-Bari Zwei, reported intermittent explosions and a fire, and another, Faraj al-Maghrabi, said the facility was partially damaged. The site contains bombs, missiles and ammunition — key for the undersupplied opposition military forces.

State TV carried a statement by Libya’s Defense Ministry denying any attempt to bomb the depot. Ajdabiya lies about 450 miles (750 kilometers) east of Tripoli along the Mediterranean coast.

Gadhafi opponents have moved to consolidate their hold in the east, centered on Benghazi — Libya’s second largest city, where the uprising began. Politicians there on Sunday set up their first leadership council to manage day-to-day affairs, taking a step toward forming what could be an alternative to Gadhafi’s regime.

The opposition is backed by numerous units of the military in the east that joined the uprising, and they hold several bases and Benghazi’s airport. But so far, the units do not appear to have melded into a unified fighting force. Gadhafi long kept the military weak, fearing a challenge to his rule, so many units are plagued by shortages of supplies and ammunition.

Gadhafi supporters said Monday that they were in control of the city of Sabratha, west of Tripoli, which has seemed to go back and forth between the two camps the past week. Several residents told The Associated Press that protesters set fire to a police station, but then were dispersed. Anti-Gadhafi graffiti — “Down with the enemy of freedom” and “Libya is free, Gadhafi must leave” — were scrawled on some walls, but residents were painting them over.

In the capital, several hundred protesters started a march in the eastern district of Tajoura, which has been the scene of frequent clashes. After the burial of a person killed in gunfire last week, mourners began to march down a main street, chanting against the Libyan leader and waving the flag of Libya’s pre-Gadhafi monarchy, which has become a symbol of the uprising, a witness said.

But they quickly dispersed once a brigade of pro-Gadhafi fighters rushed to the scene, scattering before the gunmen could fire a shot, the witness said. He and other residents in the capital spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

There were attempts to restore aspects of normalcy in the capital, residents said. Many stores downtown reopened, and traffic in the streets increased.

Tripoli was in turmoil on Friday, when residents said gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on protesters holding new marches. But since then, the capital has been quiet — especially since foreign journalists invited by Gadhafi’s regime to view the situation arrived Friday.

Long lines formed outside banks in the capital by Libyans wanting to receive the equivalent of $400 per family that Gadhafi pledged in a bid to shore up public loyalty.

One resident said pro-Gadhafi security forces man checkpoints around the city of 2 million and prowl the city for any sign of unrest. She told The Associated Press that the price of rice, a main staple, has gone up 500 percent amid the crisis, reaching the equivalent of $40 for a five-kilogram (10-pound) bag.

Bakeries are limited to selling five loaves of bread per family, and most butcher shops are closed, she said.

Some schools reopened, but only for a half day and attendance was low. “My kids are too afraid to leave home and they even sleep next to me at night,” said Sidiq al-Damjah, 41 and father of three. “I feel like I’m living a nightmare.”

Gadhafi has launched by far the bloodiest crackdown in a wave of anti-government uprisings sweeping the Arab world, the most serious challenge to his four decades in power. The United States, Britain and the U.N. Security Council all slapped sanctions on Libya this weekend.

In Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was meeting Monday with foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Italy, pressing for tough sanctions on the Libyan government. A day earlier, Clinton kept up pressure for Gadhafi to step down and “call off the mercenaries” and other troops that remain loyal to him.

“We’ve been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well,” Clinton said. “I think it’s way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we’re going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States.”

Two U.S. senators said Washington should recognize and arm a provisional government in rebel-held areas of eastern Libya and impose a no-fly zone over the area — enforced by U.S. warplanes — to stop attacks by the regime. But Fillon said a no-fly zone needed U.N. support “which is far from being obtained today.”

Sabratha, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Tripoli — a city known for nearby Roman ruins — showed signs of the tug-of-war between the two camps. On Monday, when the journalists invited to Libya by the government visited, many people were lined up at banks to collect their $400. When they saw journalists, they chanted, “God, Moammar and Libya.”

Ali Mohammed, a leader from the Alalqa tribe, the main tribe in the area, said in previous days Gadhafi opponents burned the main police station, an Internal Security office and the People’s Hall, where the local administration meets. “I then held a meeting with the protesters to stop these acts the people said they will control their children and since then there has been no problems,” he said.

“The thugs and rats were roaming the streets and they attacked the police station and then they disappeared,” said resident Taher Ali, who was collecting his $400. “They are rats and thugs. We are all with Moammar.”

An anti-Gadhafi activist in Sabratha told The Associated Press in Cairo by telephone that the opposition raided the police station and security offices last week for weapons, and had dominated parts of city. But then on Sunday, a large force of pro-Gadhafi troops deployed in the city, “so we withdrew,” he said.

“The city is not controlled by us or them. There are still skirmishes going on,” he said.

In Tripoli, a government spokesman blamed the West and Islamic militants for the upheaval, saying they had hijacked and escalated what he said began as “genuine” but small protests demanding “legitimate aand much needed political improvements.”

“On one hand, Islamists love to see chaos … this is paradise for them,” he said. “The West wants chaos to give them reason to intervene militarily to control the oil.”

“The Islamists want Libya to be their Afghanistan … to complete their crescent of terror,” he said. “This is not the first time the Islamic militants and the west find common cause.”

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AP correspondents Hamza Hendawi, Bassem Mroue and Ben Hubbard in Cairo, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

 

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