The Other McCain

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Sunday Libya Update: Qaddafi Forces Strike Ajdabiya With Artillery Again

Posted on | April 17, 2011 | 2 Comments

The see-saw struggle in eastern Libya has turned against the rebels once more, the U.K. Guardian reports:

Muammar Gaddafi’s forces mounted a heavy assault on Libyan rebels holding the key town of Ajdabiya on Sunday in a sign that the regime is stepping up efforts to regain territory in the east of the country.
Explosions were heard for several hours in the morning, forcing some of the few remaining families to flee to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, 90 miles away.
Dozens of vehicles, some of them rebel trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back, were seen leaving Ajdabiya for Benghazi. Rebels were also seen laying anti-tank mines at the eastern gate of the city, highlighting their fears that Gaddafi’s forces could retake the town. . . .
Assisted by sandstorms, which have provided cover for air assaults, Gaddafi’s forces have increased their attacks near Ajdabiya’s western gate in recent days, mostly through long-distance shelling.
On Saturday, eight rebels were killed and 27 injured on the road leading west to the oil port of Brega, according to Dr GS Mohamed, the head surgeon at Ajdabiya’s hospital. . . .
During a lull in the fighting around midday, more than 20 rebel vehicles — pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns — sped into Ajdabiya to provide reinforcements.
“Gaddafi is trying to clear the city before sending his troops in,” said Ahmed Shomi, 30, a rebel volunteer driving a battered pickup with no windscreen.

The Associated Press reports:

Moammar Gadhafi’s forces shelled the eastern edge of Ajdabiya Sunday, bringing the fight to the front-line rebel town that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.
Loud booms rocked the city throughout the morning, sending a column of cars — some with rebel fighters, others with families — fleeing north through a thick sandstorm to more securely held rebel territory. . . .
The government strikes highlight the rebels’ inability to hold territory along the desert road to the city’s east where weeks of fighting has seen neither side able to make significant advances.
Rebels acknowledged the setback a day after claiming they had reached the outskirts of the oil town of Brega, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the west. . . .
Rebel advances west of Ajdabiya — through Brega and its companion oil center of Ras Lanouf, another 60 miles (100 kilometers) farther on — have ultimately foundered as rebels overextended their supply lines and were routed by the heavier firepower and more sophisticated tactics of the government forces.

And now the New York Times:

Rebel fighters fled [Ajdabiya] Sunday after a rocket and artillery attack by government forces that were reportedly on the western outskirts.
Scores of rebel pickup trucks and other vehicles could be seen leaving the eastern approaches of Ajdabiya, headed toward the rebel capital of Benghazi, about 85 miles north. Explosions could be heard in the city.
Their flight seemed to bring to an end a claimed rebel push that had taken them to the outskirts of the oil refinery town of Brega, about another 40 miles further west of Ajdabiya. . . .
Strong winds and a sandstorm lowered visibility Sunday and may have made it difficult for air support to engage targets . . .

Let’s recap the past week: Last Sunday, the rebels were fighting to hold onto Ajdabiya after two days of attacks by Qaddafi’s army. NATO air strikes helped repel those attacks, and by Wednesday, it was reported that the rebels were again advancing on Brega. Now, however, Qaddafi’s forces have once more pushed back east to bring Ajdabiya under artillery fire, and sandstorms have impeded NATO air power.

Expect the fighting to begin anew Monday morning. And then we’ll see whether the “stalemate” remains stalemated.


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