Rebels: Moammar Gadhafi's fighters shell western mountains

By Diaa Hadid

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 18 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Rebel fighter Yamen Saad, 28, on security duty at the last checkpoint which allows the presence of reporters before the front line with Moammar Gadhafi troops in Ajdabiya, Libya, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi shelled villages and towns to try to take control of the high ground in a western mountain range, while a U.N. official appealed for global assistance for some 2 million people displaced by fighting between Gadhafi's forces and rebels trying to oust him.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Libya said some 1.6 million people inside the North African country need aid because fighting has disrupted basic services and depleted food and medical stocks.

Coordinator Panos Moumtzis, who is based in Geneva, an additional 500,000 who have crossed borders to Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region also need humanitarian assistance.

Moumtzis said he was asking international donors for $408 million to fund aid for Libya through September.

Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for more than 40 years, has been using his military and militias to try to put down an uprising that began in February to try to remove him from power.

Also Wednesday, the International Criminal Court prosecutors warned Libyan officials they will be prosecuted if they attempt to cover up crimes by forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Prosecutors issued the warning in a letter to Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi.

The letter also formally informed him of Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's request for arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi. The judges will now have to decide whether to issue arrest warrants.

Moreno-Ocampo on Monday accused the three Monday of murder and persecution for allegedly ordering, planning and participating in attacks on civilians.

The letter also underscored that the court has jurisdiction in Libya because its investigation was ordered by the UN Security Council — a contention the Libyan government has rejected.

Libyan rebels said on Wednesday that Gadhafi's forces were shelling communities in the western mountains. BelJassem, a citizen-turned-fighter from a village near Yafrin, said Gadhafi forces were using Grad missiles and rocket launchers in their nearly monthlong siege, leaving residents trapped and cut off from food and medical supplies.

"We dig trenches and hide in there at night," says BelJassem, who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals.

Yafrin, which is 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli, is one of the biggest cities in the Nafusa mountain range, home to the ethnic Berber minority.

Medghamas Abu-Zakhar, a rebel based in Yafrin, said Gadhafi forces were shelling villages toward the top of the Nafusa range in an attempt to capture the high ground.

Yafrin is home to some 250,000 Berbers, said Fathi Abu-Zakhar, who is among the city's residents who fled the fighting. He said that two of his sons stayed behind.

"They are living under siege," he said in a telephone interview. "No food and no medicine can get in. Even the injured have no way to get treatment since the only hospital has been shut down."

Farther to the West, Libyan shelling forced the closure late Tuesday of the so-called Wazen passage, which is the route people fleeing Libya use to get to neighboring Tunisia.

Jaber Naluti, a volunteer who has been trying to assist people in the area, said Gadhafi forces shelled the route, killing seven Libyan rebels. Some of the shells fell on the Tunisian side of the border.

Naluti said the shelling forced Tunisian authorities to close the passage. Tunisian jet fighters flew over the area but didn't fire. The passage appeared to be functioning normally on Wednesday.

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