Libyan rebels make fresh advances

Gains come as NATO bombs Tripoli, with strikes hitting eastern neighbourhoods of the capital city.

Fighting has been going on between Gaddafi troops and opposition forces on several fronts in Libya [Reuters]

Pro-democracy fighters have made fresh advances in both the east and the west of Libya, gaining ground against forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, reports say.

Late on Tuesday, NATO resumed bombing of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, with strikes hitting the east of the city.

Libyan state TV said the bombings had struck military and civilian targets in Firnag, one of the biggest neighbourhoods in Tripoli, and Ain Zara. It said there were casualties.

In the west of the country, the fighters managed to force government troops into retreat from the town of Kikla, about 150km southwest of the capital, on Tuesday, news agencies said.

Youssef Boudlal, a Reuters photographer, said that pro-Gaddafi forces had retreated to positions about 9km from the town of Kikla.

The rebels were in control of the town and were setting up defensive positions in case of a counterattack, Boudlal said.

And in the east, they launched more attacks against Gaddafi forces near the oil town of Brega, where fighting on Monday killed at least 25 fighters and wounded dozens more.

The wounded were transferred to a hospital in Ajdabiya, 160km south of Benghazi, the de facto capital of the rebels who have been fighting to overthrow Gaddafi since mid-February.

The rebels have spent months trying to seize the strategic oil hub of Brega, which would open the road to Sirte, the Libyan leader’s home town, and from there to Tripoli.

Brega boasts an important oil refinery which, once operational, could supply the east of the country with much-needed fuel to produce electricity.

‘No ground troops needed’

The push by the rebels came as the NATO commander heading up the Libya operations said that NATO’s mission “can be completed without the use of ground troops”.

Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard also said that the military situation in western Libya was developing “very positively”.

“I do believe we can complete the mission without bringing in ground troops,” the Canadian general told reporters off Libyan shores on the Garibaldi, the flagship for NATO’s maritime embargo on Libya.

“My view is that this operation has clear support from the North Atlantic council and we are receiving adequate assets to complete the mission and carry out our mandate,” he said, adding: “We don’t have a mandate for regime change.”

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives voted to stop funding military operations in Libya.

Monday’s motion still requires senate approval, but it shows a growing disapproval of US involvement in Libya.

A number of members of congress have expressed their dissatisfaction at Barack Obama’s decision to go ahead with operations in Libya in March and to continue without congressional authorisation.

According to US law, the president must seek congressional authorisation to send US troops into combat and must withdraw the forces within 60 days if congress has not authorised the military action.

Shock for White House

Al Jazeera Patty Culhane, reporting from Manchester in New Hampshire state, said: “This is going to be a bit of a shock for Obama administration as the vote was so overwhelmingly against allowing him to use the fund in Libya.”

The vote came came as Libyan troops fired several grad rockets from positions controlled by Gaddafi over the border into Tunisia, witnesses said.

No damage was done, but it could escalate tensions between the neighbours.

“At least five rockets fell on Tunisian soil today in the Mrabeh. It was a heavy bombardment from Gaddafi’s side of the mountains,” Mohammed Nagez, a local trader, said. 

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the western town of Jadu, said that rebel fighters were in high spirits as they edged forward.

“We were in Zintan and it was clear, as we wandered around the town a few hours ago, that rebel fighters had taken over,” our correspondent said.

Government forces posted a few miles east of Zintan fired Grad and Katyusha rockets at the town.

Battles were also being fought in the Berber mountains southwest of Tripoli, in nearby Yafran, and at Dafnia near Misurata, rebel sources said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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