Funerals held for Libyan rebels

Hundreds of mourners bury victims of clashes between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces as opposition fighters regroup.

    Hundreds of mourners in Libya have buried victims of clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in the country's east, where the opposition beat back an offensive by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.

    The funerals came as rebel forces regrouped in preparation for another potential onslaught on Friday, a day after air strikes struck the coastal town of Brega in an attempt by pro-Gaddafi forces to retake control.

    Saif Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, told a British broadcaster that Thursday's air strikes were meant to scare opposition protesters away, not kill them.

    However, the air strikes failed to dislodge opposition fighters from the oil-rich area, which lies nearly 800km east of the capital, Tripoli.


    Rebel reinforcements from the east of the country began arriving in the nearby town of Ajdabiya and arming themselves, according to information received by Al Jazeera.

    Meanwhile, dozens of people marched in a funeral procession in Ajdabiya on Thursday, with five coffins held aloft en route to the cemetery there.

    "For the people of Ajdabiya, these men are marytrs to their revolution. And the more of their comrades who are killed, the more they are determined to defeat Muammar Gaddafi," reported Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the city.

    Mourners shouted slogans against Gaddafi, including: "The blood of marytrs will not be spilled in vain"; "Gaddafi get out, Libyans don't want you!"; and "Gaddafi you're crazy!".

    Human Rights Watch confirmed at least 14 deaths from the fighting in Brega as of Thursday morning, including a 13-year-old shepherd named Hassan Umran.

    In Benghazi, Libya's second city and a stronghold of the opposition, which has been demanding that Gaddafi step down, about 1,000 people turned out to bury six people, the AFP news agency reported.

    A crowd of anti-government activists packed into vehicles and drove to the cemetery, where they fired into the air and said prayers honouring those who had been killed.

    Struggle intensifies

    Earlier, our correspondent reported that the rebels in the country's east, though poorly equipped and not well trained, set up advanced positions 50km west of Brega.

    Read more of our Libya coverage

    The reported strikes on the town came in the wake of a counter-offensive launched by Gaddafi, aimed at taking back lost territory in the country's east. About 300 men loyal to the Libyan leader attacked Brega, some 500km east of the capital, Tripoli, on Wednesday.

    A short while later, an air force bomber encircled the town, firing a missile without causing any casualties. The warplane struck a beach near where the two sides were fighting at a university campus.

    Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, who was about 70 metres from the missile when it hit, said the opposition managed to repel the strike - maintaining control of the town they seized a week ago.

    Located between Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte - still under government control - and the opposition-held eastern port of Benghazi, Brega also sits near ethnic fault lines between tribes loyal to Gaddafi and eastern groups opposed to him.

    Government forces were also reported to be battling to regain control of rebel-held towns close to Tripoli, trying to create a buffer zone around what is still Gaddafi's seat of power.

    Meanwhile government officials from the Netherlands are continuing with efforts to win the release of three Dutch marines detained in Libya.

    They were captured on Sunday by forces loyal to Gaddafi after they landed in the coastal city of Sirte. They were trying to rescue two Europeans who have since been handed over to the Dutch embassy in Tripoli.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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