Libya fight focuses on strategic oil town

By Ryan Lucas

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 3 2011 4:40 a.m. MDT

Rebel fighters, one making the victory sign, ride in a truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun, on a street in Benghazi, Libya Saturday, April 2, 2011. An airstrike intended to thwart Moammar Gadhafi's forces killed 13 rebel fighters in eastern Libya instead, the opposition said Saturday, but they described it as an "unfortunate accident" and stressed it did not diminish their support for the international air campaign.

Ben Curtis, Associated Press

BREGA, Libya — Libyan rebels skirmished with government forces around the strategic oil town of Brega on Sunday, making incremental advances backed by international air strikes in the seesaw desert battle for the country.

In contrast to the rapid gains and losses of territory that characterized the fighting over the past few weeks, the conflict has stabilized around the oil facilities of Brega, as better trained rebel soldiers join the fight and airstrikes blunt the government advantages in weapons and training.

"There is fighting going on inside Brega, Gadhafi's forces are based inside Brega university, and we're shelling them and advancing them bit by bit," said Col. Juma Abdel-Hamid, as Grad rockets fired off toward government positions.

As more veterans of the old army of joined the battle, the rebel forces have shown more skill in battling their government opponents who possess better training and weapons.

The rebel truck-mounted rocket launchers would fire their missiles, move and then fire again to avoid government counter-strikes, suggesting better tactics and training then previously.

The rebels have also been aided by an international campaign of airstrikes that have knocked out the government's heavy weapons, such as the tanks whose withering artillery fire shredded several previous rebel advances.

One of those airstrikes went awry late on Friday however, and mistakenly killed 13 rebel fighters. Significantly, however, the opposition blamed mistakes on their own actions in a sign of the importance of the international air campaign to their war effort.

There were also reports by Arab news channels of continued heavy shelling of Misrata, the lone rebel outpost in western Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi's forces still largely hold sway.

Medical officials said Saturday that government forces killed 37 civilians over the past two days in an unrelenting campaign of shelling and sniper fire and an attack that burned down the city's main stocks of flour and sugar.

A Turkish ship carrying 250 wounded from Misrata is expected to dock in Benghazi on Sunday as well, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

The boat, which is carrying medical supplies, is expected to pick up around 60 wounded people and 21 accompanying persons that are currently being treated in various hospitals in Benghazi as well as 30 Turks and 40 people from Greece, Ukraine, Britain, Uzbekistan, Germany and Finland.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS