Gadaffi Forces Fighting Back Hard; “Liberated Libya Rejects US Intervention” video [updated]
Earlier in the day reports had said that Gadaffi forces had retaken Brega, near which key port town a Gadaffi plane had dropped a bomb. An oil installation and airport and airport are located there; but at 7:32 the Guardian reported:
AP has more on the battle between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces in Brega, reporting that at least 10 rebel fighters were killed and 18 wounded.
The attack began just after dawn, when several hundred pro-Gadhafi forces in 50 trucks and SUVs mounted with machine guns descended on the port, driving out a small opposition contingent and seizing control of the oil facilities, port and airstrip. But by afternoon, they had lost it all and had retreated to a university campus 5 miles (7km) away.
There, opposition fighters besieged them, clambering from the beach up a hill to the campus as mortars and heavy machine gun fire blasted around them, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. They took cover behind grassy dunes, firing back with assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. At one point a war plane struck in the dunes to try to disperse them, but it caused no casualties and the siege continued.
“The dogs have fled,” one middle-aged fighter shouted, waving his Kalashnikov over his head in victory after the Gadhafi forces withdrew from the town before nightfall.”
British officials have confirmed that they have begun to airlift what they hope will be 6,000 Egyptian refugees from Libya from Djerba to Cairo, shuttling them on an airbus. Tunisia and France are also contributing planes to the airlift which is between coordinated by the UNHCR and the International Office for Migration.
The US apparently has two amphibious landing crafts nearing Tripoli, and UNHCR warrns that thousands of Africans will attempt to get to Niger in the coming days, fearing violence from those Libyans confusing them with Gadaffi’s African mercenaries. More form the Guardian:
“In Ajdabiya, 90 miles from Benghazi and described by the Guardian’s Martin Chulov as a potential “frontline” of clashes between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces, there has reportedly been a failed bombing attempt on an arms dump to the south of the city. Brega and Ajdabiya are the furthest west points in the large swath of eastern Libya extending all the way to the Egyptian border that has so far fallen to the opposition. A petrol tanker was ablaze in Tripoli this morning, with no clear signs of any accident to cause the fire.
• Two US warships have passed through the Suez canal and closer to Libya (see 2.58pm). But the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, told a congressional committee that establishing a no-fly zone would have to begin with an attack on Libyan territory, in order to destroy Muammar Gaddafi’s air defence weapons. He noted that the overall military effort would require more planes than are available from a single US aircraft carrier, but said if Barack Obama wanted a no-fly zone established, the Pentagon could do it. However, the idea has been rejected by Russia, which holds a veto-wielding seat on the UN security council. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she was worried Libya would descend into chaos and become “a giant Somalia” ie a haven for al-Qaida.”
France and the UK have both announced operations to rescue Egyptians trying to get out of Libya, the Associated Press reports. Amid concerns about a humanitarian crisis at the Libya-Tunisia border David Cameron said the UK will be sending aircraft, while France said its operation says would involve large airliners and a French Navy ship heading to the region. The French said its operation will allow the evacuation of at least 5,000 people over the course of a week.
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference said it will set up two fully equipped field hospitals and provide ambulances on the Tunisian and Egyptian sides of their borders with Libya.
Gadaffi gave a three-hour speech earlier in the day, offering more leniency to rebels, more love for them and himself, and more perquisites to daily life in the form of a Constitution and a free press and money. According to Peter Beaumont:
There are the usual flourishes. Gaddafi says Libyans will “fight to the last man and woman” against foreigners. “We will enter a bloody war and thousands and thousands of Libyans will die if the United States enters or Nato enters,” Gaddafi says, laughing at points during his long address.
“Do they want us to become slaves once again like we were slaves to the Italians? … We will never accept it.” There are jibes against David Cameron and the UN security council. Offers of aid, he says, are equivalent to invasion. He blames al-Qaida for the trouble.
One would think that the talk of foreign intervention might be causing him to retake some of the towns and infrastructure now held by rebel forces, or Free Libyans.
Morning updates 3/03/2011, from the Guardian:
“Egypt’s prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, has resigned and been replaced by former transport minister Essam Sharaf. Shafiq had been under pressure to go because of his links to the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, who appointed him before stepping down as president. A million-man march was planned for tomorrow to force out Shafiq and other members of the cabinet linked to Mubarak. In addition to the demonstrations, 61 intellectuals and public figures had called on Egypt’s supreme military council to dissolve the sitting cabinet.”
Brega and Ajdabiya have reportedly been bombed by Gaddafi’s forces as troops loyal to the Libyan leader continue their bid to reclaim towns and cities controlled by anti-Gaddafi demonstrators. Reuters reported that the airport in Brega was targeted, while strikes in Ajdabiya were aimed at forces massed at the city’s western gate. No casualties were reported.
The rebel national Libyan council in Benghazi has said it will accept nothing less that than Gaddafi’s exit, and that of all his family and close aides, according to al-Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, which seems to rule out Venezuela-brokered mediation talks.