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Libya rebels take casualties in fight for Brega

Ajdabiyah, August 13, 2011

Rebels on the eastern front of Libya's civil war lost 11 men in the past 24 hours fighting to capture the strategic oil terminal and refinery at Brega on the Mediterranean coast, hospital sources said.

Sources at a hospital in Ajdabiyah to the northeast said about 50 were wounded on Thursday and Friday and one civilian in the almost deserted town was killed when a rocket fired by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces hit a house.

The rebels have taken the residential zone of New Brega. But that is 15 km (10 miles) from the terminal and port area.

They hope that capturing the port 750 km east of the capital Tripoli will be a tipping point in their nearly six-month campaign to oust Gaddafi. They want to begin exporting oil from Brega as quickly as possible.

But the battle for it has been going on for months.

"There's close fighting in the oil terminal area this morning but maybe we can finish it off today," rebel soldier Mohammad Muftah said.

Troops loyal to Gaddafi were holding onto the oil facilities, firing rockets at rebel positions.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the rebels had not entered the city of Brega, and told a news conference more than 20 rebels had been killed in fighting round the city.

Gaddafi is clinging to power despite a near five-month-old Nato air campaign, tightening economic sanctions, and a lengthening war with rebels trying to end his 41-year rule.

The rebels have seized large swathes of the North African state, but are deeply divided and lack experience, and Thursday's gains in the east broke weeks of stalemate.

In the west, rebel forces driving north towards the town of Zawiyah, within striking distance of Gaddafi's stronghold in the capital, have not moved up from Thursday's positions.

Rebels said they had reached the village of Bir Shuaib, some 25 km from Zawiyah, which has unsuccessfully risen up against Gaddafi twice this year. – Reuters




Tags: Nato | libya | gaddafi | rebels | Brega | Casualties |

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