[QODLink]
Africa
Libyan rebels pushed back from Brega
Opposition fighters come under fire as they clear mines that have held up their efforts to regain key eastern oil town.
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2011 23:24

Libyan government forces in trucks disguised with rebel flags have shelled opposition positions near the strategic eastern oil town of Brega, killing 13 rebel fighters and wounding dozens more, officials said.

Rebel forces have been pushing to seize the frontline town, which is home to an oil refinery and terminal, for nearly a week, but they say minefields planted by Gaddafi's forces have slowed the advance.

They took positions 10km east of the oil port, working to clear the mines so they can move forward.

"Maybe within three or four days we will solve this problem of mines and we will be in Brega," said rebel spokesman Ahmed Bani.

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reporting from the area says rebels thought their position was betrayed by "spies and traitors" within their camp but they were certain those disloyal to the cause would be rooted out.

The rebels are fighting in a residential area on the town's eastern side and control about one-third of the town, another rebel spokesman said.

Heavy casualties

A doctor at the hospital in the nearby city of Ajdabiya said a lot of severely injured fighters were taken there on Tuesday, most of them with head and chest injuries caused by gunshots and explosions.


AJE speaks to New Arab League head Nabil el-Araby

"The numbers of casualities exceeded the numbers of beds available," said Hiba Shasha.

Another doctor at the same hospital said eight rebels were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday, raising the total to at least 34 rebels killed in five days of fighting.

He said the rebels had taken four prisoners, and one dead government soldier had been taken to the rebel hospital. It is unclear how many other government soldiers have been killed.

The Libyan government rarely provides information on its casualties.

In an audio message directed at a rally of thousands in the town of al-Aziziya, south of Tripoli, Muammar Gaddafi emphasised the importance of Libya's vast oil wealth to his regime, and called the civil war a battle "for our way of life."

Waving the green flags and chanting "Only God, Muammar and Libya" the supporters gathered in the town main square. The embattled leader remains fiercely popular in certain sections of the country.

Gaddafi addressed the crowd vowing to fight on till the end: "We are in our homes, on our land, we will fight; we will defend, with men, women and children."

The rally was the fifth in 12 days, staged to show Gaddafi's support in the towns he still controls.

Rebels struggling to oust Gaddafi since the uprising against his rule broke out in February control much of Libya's east, but Brega has been under government control since early April.

The two sides have been locked in a stalemate with the rebels unable to advance beyond pockets in the west despite a NATO air campaign against Gaddafi's forces.

Last week, more than 30 nations gave the rebels a boost by recognising their National Transitional Council as the country's legitimate government, potentially freeing up billions of dollars in urgently needed cash.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A handful of agencies that provide tours to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea say business is growing.
A political power struggle masquerading as religious strife grips Nigeria - with mixed-faith couples paying the price.
The current surge in undocumented child migrants from Central America has galvanized US anti-immigration groups.
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
join our mailing list