Libyan opposition claims major gains

Fighters say they have captured an important Gaddafi forces commander on their way to the town of Zliten.

Libyan rebels in car

Libya’s opposition fighters have escalated their offensive against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces east of the capital Tripoli, capturing one of the most prominent government commanders along the way.

After two days of fighting, they moved their position to around 4km forward from Dafniyah, a town in Misurata.

“We move forward [now] towards Zliten,” Ayman, an opposition field commander, said, referring to the coastal town 160km east of Tripoli.

“We are now close to an area called Tuesday Market in Zliten and, God willing, we will liberate our people in Zliten soon from the forces of the tyrant.”

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Misurata, described General Abdul Nabih Zayed, the captured commander, as the one of the most high-value prisoners taken by the opposition to date.

Zayed allegedly co-ordinated the deployment of tanks into Misurata in March which triggered the recent fighting.

“According to the military commanders here in Misurata, Zayed was actually captured yesterday as they started their offensive towards the town of Zliten. He was slightly injured, so he was brought back to the hospital here in Misrata,” she said.

“Its also a significant catch because it is happening at the time the opposition started their push towards Zliten. They have made significant territorial gains. Rebel commanders are saying they are interrogating General Zayed and they are hoping he will give them significant information.”

Boobytrapped oilfields

In another claim on Thursday, opposition officials said Gaddafi forces had boobytrapped vital petroleum installations in Brega so they could be blown up if his forces lost the oil town.


Mahmoud Jibril, the opposition diplomatic chief, characterised Brega on Thursday as a “big minefield” and said some oil installations were “full of bombs, explosives”.

The advance towards Brega has been slowed by vast quantities of anti-personnel mines planted by retreating Gaddafi loyalists and the difficulties in attacking an estimated 200 government troops fighting from positions near the oil facilities.

At least 72 opposition fighters have died and 623 others injured since the push was launched on July 14 for Brega, located 800km east of Tripoli and 240km southwest of Benghazi, the opposition stronghold.

On the war’s western front, opposition commanders said they were awaiting orders from Benghazi to start a fresh offensive from the Nafusa Mountains just days before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Energy shortage

With no end to the conflict in sight, the Libyan opposition is seeking new supply deals to import fuels into eastern parts of the country to help alleviate energy shortages, a source in the opposition oil ministry said on Thursday.

Even in peacetime the oil producer still needed to import some fuels because of insufficient refining capacity. Increased military demand and damage to oil infrastructure have further boosted import requirements.

“Vitol are providing some fuels but I’m not sure it’s enough to serve the whole country. They are pursuing other suppliers,” a source in the opposition oil ministry said.

Vitol, a trading firm, has been the opposition’s major oil trading partner since the war began and has regularly shipped cargoes of oil products including diesel – badly needed to keep the country running.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from the eastern town of Jalu, said the Gaddafi forces have repeatedly crossed the eastern desert south of Benghazi to destroy oilfield infrustructure.

“In early July, they attacked a pumping station in Field 103, southwest of Jalu, and boobytrapped the engine room with landmines,” she said.

“War has brought oil production in Libya to a standstill. And Gaddafi is determined to prevent the opposition in the east from starting its own oil business.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies