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Libya rebels claim victory in fight for Brega
Rebels say they have retaken oil town, as Russia slams US for recognisng their leadership as legitimate government.
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2011 16:43
Brega, which is 750km east of Tripoli, has changed hands several times since the uprising against Gaddafi [EPA]

Libyan rebels have claimed victory against troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the country's leader, inside the eastern port town of Brega.

The rebels said Gaddafi's troops were retreating west towards the town of Ras Lanuf.

Brega, which is 750km east of Tripoli, the capital, has changed hands several times since the uprising against Gaddafi began in February.

Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a rebel spokesman, told the AFP news agency that the fighters had circled the town, a key oil export terminal with a refinery and chemical plant, which for months marked the eastern limit of Gaddafi's control.

He said the streets of Brega have "an extraordinary number of anti-personnel mines", making it hard to secure the area.

"The remaining number of Gaddafi's troops in Brega, which is estimated to be between 150 to 200 have been pushed into an industrial area with dwindling supplies," said Abdulmolah.

"Their food and water supplies are cut and they now will not be able to sleep. It is a matter of time before they come to their senses, we hope to prevent some bloodshed."

Omar El-Hariri, the designated Minister of Military Affairs for the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, told Al Jazeera that the "landmines [are] a new tactic by Gaddafi, because he is desperate."

The NTC is the political body formed to represent the Libyan rebels.

According to the NTC, 127 anti-Gaddafi personnel have been injured in battles with Gaddafi loyalists in and around Brega since the weekend.

The official Libyan JANA news agency said that 19 Gaddafi loyalists had died over the weekend as a result of NATO bombing in the Brega area.

Russian anger

Russia criticised the United States and other countries on Monday for recognising the rebel leadership as the legitimate government of Libya, saying they were taking sides in the rebellion to oust Gaddafi.

"Those who declare recognition stand fully on the side of one political force in a civil war," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recognition of the rebels on Friday during a meeting of the international contact group on Libya in Turkey.

While the US, UK and France have taken a stronger line towards Gaddafi, Russia and China have taken a softer line, with both countries not attending the contact group meeting.

In a speech on Saturday, Gaddafi described the rebels as traitors and rejected suggestions that he was about to leave the country.

Source:
Al Jazeera and sources
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