Pro-Gaddafi Forces Close In On Benghazi
Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are closing in on what has become the capital of the rebellion:
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s forces and rebels are fighting for control of the oil town of Brega as the battle for eastern Libya edged closer to Benghazi, the so-called “rebel capital” in the east.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reported from Benghazi that “there is no immediate threat to Benghazi, and the rebels have a new commander, an experienced commander, who has defected from Gaddafi forces.
“This is good news for the rebel forces as he is reported to have some 8,000 men with him and heavy weapons too.
“Militarily, it is difficult for Gaddafi to come all the way to Benghazi, street fighting will make Gaddafi lose men and their morale may go down.”
Separately, rebels say they are fortifying the town of Ajdabiya, against a possible assault by advancing forces loyal to Gaddafi, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Ahmed al-Zwei, a rebel spokesman, said on Tuesday, “intermittent” fighting between the two sides was taking place on an 80-kilometre stretch of road between Ajdabiya and Brega.
On Monday, Libyan jets flew behind rebel lines to bomb Ajdabiyah, the only sizeable town before Benghazi.
Rebels said there had been no casualties.
Colonel Milad Hussein, Libyan army spokesman, said that government forces were “marching to cleanse the country” of insurgents, whom he called “rats and terrorists” and vowed to take on Benghazi.
The lightly armed rebels have been pushed back some 200 kilometres by Gaddafi’s better equipped and better trained forces in the past week.
“In Brega it is still advance and retreat, we are not in control and they are not either,” rebel fighter Hussein al-Wami told the Reuters news agency.
His report was seconded by fighter Addel Ibriki, who returned to Ajdabiya from Brega on Tuesday morning. “It is still to and from,” Ibriki said.
However, according to earlier claims, rebel fighters said they captured and even killed Gaddafi troops in Brega – but government forces contest that claim, saying that they are in control of the town.
Libyan state TV showed some images, on Monday, from Brega port, claiming that it was in government control and at peace.
Al Jazeera correspondents said it was difficult to verify the claims made by both sides.
At some point, one assumes, there will be a decisive battle that will decide this.