Gadhafi drives rebels from strategic oil port

Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

    Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi rebels, take shelter behind a wall to protect themselves from shelling during fighting against pro-Moammar Gadhafi AP – Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi rebels, take shelter behind a wall to protect themselves from shelling …
    RAS LANOUF, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s forces pushed rebel fighters from the strategic oil port of Ras Lanouf on Thursday, driving the opposition from the city with a withering rain of artillery fire.
    The lightly armed rebel forces sped back to opposition territory by the hundreds, fleeing eastward in cars and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns. One said government forces were showering rockets or tank shells on the city in what appeared to be preparation for a full-scale advance.
    Shells hit a series of buildings as Gadhafi’s tanks moved further along Libya’s main Mediterranean coastal road than they have been since the rebels seized most of the country’s east.
    The main hospital in Ras Lanouf was hit by artillery or an airstrike and the rebels are pulling their staff out and evacuating patients to the towns of Brega and Ajdabiya, said Gebril Hewada, a doctor on te opposition’s health committee in the main eastern city of Benghazi. He said no staffers were hurt but he didn’t know about patients.
    The retreat was a major setback on a day of rebel victory on the diplomatic front. France became the first country to formally recognize the rebels’ newly created Interim Governing Council, saying it planned to exchange ambassadors after President Nicolas Sarkozy met with two representatives of the group based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
    “It breaks the ice,” said Mustafa Gheriani, an opposition spokesman. “We expect Italy to do it, and we expect England to do it.”
    Germany said it froze billions in assets of the Libyan Central Bank and other state-run agencies. The U.S., UK, Switzerland, Austria and other countries have also frozen Gadhafi’s assets.
    “The brutal suppression of the Libyan freedom movement can now no longer be financed from funds that are in German banks,” Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said.

    Both sides in Libya are lobbying for support from Western countries as their leaders debate whether to protect the rebels from Gadhafi’s air force by putting a no-fly zone over some or all of the country. Britain and France have backed the rebels’ calls for a no-fly zone, but the Obama adminstration has expressed deep reservations about involvement in another conflict in the greater Middle East.
    NATO said it had started round-the-clock surveillance of the air space over Libya, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said a meeting of EU foreign ministers would discuss how to isolate the regime.
    The Libyan government tried to stave off tough action, sending envoys to Egypt, Portugal and Greece.
    The international Red Cross said dozens of civilians have been wounded or killed in recent days in grueling battles between Gadhafi’s army and the opposition movement trying to oust him.
    Fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi around Ras Lanouf set two oil installations ablaze Wednesday and inflicted yet more damage on Libya’s crippled energy industry.
    In the west, Gadhafi claimed victory in recapturing Zawiya, the city closest to the capital that had fallen into opposition hands. Western journalists based in Tripoli were taken late Wednesday to a stadium on the outskirts of Zawiya that was filled with Gadhafi loyalists waving green flags and launching fireworks. Libyan TV cameras filmed the celebrations as food, drinks and cooking oil were distributed.
    Government escorts refused journalists’ requests to visit the city’s main square.; phone lines there have not been working during a deadly, six-day siege.
    Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger said local doctors over the past few days saw a sharp increase in casualties arriving at hospitals in Ajdabiya, in the rebel-held east, and Misrata, in government territory.
    Both places saw heavy fighting and air strikes, he said.
    Kellenberger said 40 patients were treated for serious injuries in Misrata and 22 dead were taken there.

    He said the Red Cross surgical team in Ajdabiya operated on 55 wounded over the past week and “civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.”

    He said the aid organization is cut off from access in western areas including Tripoli but believes those are “even more severely affected by the fighting” than eastern rebel-held territories.

    Two foreign correspondents have been missing since Sunday after traveling in the direction of Zawiya, their newspapers reported.

    Britain’s Guardian newspaper said veteran correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was last in touch through a third party Sunday from the outskirts of the city. He was traveling with Paris correspondent Andrei Netto of Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, which said that until Sunday it had been receiving what it characterized as “indirect information” indicating Netto was safe.

    The Brazilian newspaper said it received information suggesting Netto had been taken prisoner by Libyan government forces, and that a Libyan official said the information was “probably correct.”

    Middle East Editor Ian Black said the Guardian has been in contact with Libyan government officials in Tripoli and London and asked them to urgently help in the search for Abdul-Ahad and to establish if he is in the custody of the authorities.

    Netto entered Libya on Feb. 19 from the border with Tunisia and worked his way toward Zawiya, his newspaper said.

    Brazil’s government, its embassy in Libya, the Red Cross and other groups are trying to find out more about Netto and to determine he is safe, the paper said.

    The British Broadcasting Corp. staff said three of its staff were detained, beaten and subjected to mock executions by pro-regime soldiers in Libya while attempting to reach the western city of Zawiya.

    The news organization said the crew, members of a BBC Arabic team, were detained on Monday by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists at a check point about 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Zawiya.

    Chris Cobb-Smith, a British journalist and part of the crew, said the group were moved between several locations, in some cases alongside civilian captives who had visible injuries from heavy beatings.


    John Heilprin in Geneva, Elaine Ganley in Paris, Don Melvin in Brussels and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.

    Copyright. 2011. All Rights Reserved


    One Response to “Gadhafi drives rebels from strategic oil port”

    1. vegasmike433 Says:

      Hard to see where this rebellion is headed. With the access to unlimited amounts of cash to pay his loyalists, this mad man dictator shows no sign of relenting. I cannot see where he is loosing his grip in any significant way.

    Leave a Reply

    Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: