Libyan troops shell western rebel positions

MISRATA/KIKLA, Libya - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces shelled rebel positions in the Western Mountains on Wednesday, insurgents said, after rebel advances on three fronts brought them closer to the capital.

By (Reuters)

Published: Wed 15 Jun 2011, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:33 PM

A rebel spokesman, called Kalefa, in the town of Nalut said there were no casualties from the shelling.

“Gaddafi’s forces bombarded Nalut this morning ... Over 20 Grad rockets landed in the town. They bombarded from their positions ... around 20 km (12 miles) east of Nalut,” he said.

“They also shelled the Wazin-Dehiba (Tunisian) border crossing.”

Fighting was relatively subdued on Wednesday as rebels held positions towards Zlitan, east of Tripoli, and on other fronts, Reuters witnesses said.

NATO war planes bombed Tripoli on Tuesday night, causing loud explosions that filled the sky with plumes of smoke, but there were no further reports of bombing on Wednesday.

Libyan state TV said the bombs had struck military and civilian targets in Firnag, one of the most populated areas in the capital, and Ain Zara. It said there were casualties.

On Tuesday, the rebels tried to advance in the east, setting their sights on the oil town of Brega to extend their control over the region, epicentre of the four-month rebellion against Gaddafi’s four-decade rule.

A Reuters correspondent with the rebels said there were no further advances in the region on Wednesday.

NATO defence chiefs met in Belgrade to discuss the mission, after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused some European allies of failing to pull their weight.

Ties are straining in the alliance, with some reluctant to commit additional resources needed to sustain the bombing mission in the coming months.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron in London to discuss the nearly three-month-old operation, which has so far failed to oust Gaddafi or enable the rebels to capture Tripoli.

A senior NATO commander appeared to raise questions about the alliance’s ability to handle a long-term intervention.

“We are conducting this operation with all the means we have ... If the operation were to last long, of course, the resource issue will become critical,” General Stephane Abrial said late on Tuesday.

In a sign that Gaddafi’s forces may be getting stretched, the rebels seized the town of Kikla, 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Tripoli. They also pushed several kilometres west of their Misrata stronghold to the outskirts of government-held Zlitan.

But they have a way to go if they are to successfully march on Gaddafi’s well-defended territory in the Libyan capital.

Push to Zlitan halted

The push to Kikla followed weeks of deadlock between the rag-tag rebel army and government forces, though air strikes by NATO have taken their toll on Gaddafi’s better-equipped troops.

The rebels said a NATO leaflet warning of helicopter strikes had prevented them from pushing towards the town of Zlitan on Tuesday, and had prompted some rebels to retreat from their newly captured positions about 10 km outside the city towards their base in Misrata, east of Tripoli.

A NATO official said the alliance did drop leaflets warning of the possibility of attack by helicopters, but said this was west of Misrata, and closer to Zlitan.

A Reuters correspondent in Misrata said there were no further advances towards Zlitan on Wednesday.

A rebel leader in the Mediterranean port city said the oil refinery there was still out of action after Gaddafi’s forces shelled it on Monday, but petrol stations were working.

“The oil refinery ... will resume again soon,” said Khalifa Zuwawi, chairman of the transitional council in Misrata.

Even without the threat of NATO attack, the rebels said they would not attack Zlitan, citing tribal sensitivities. Instead they would wait for the local inhabitants to rise up.

A NATO official said warplanes had hit an ammunition store at Waddan, not far from Al Jufrah, after Libyan television said Al Jufrah, in central Libya, had been bombed for a second day. (

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