sábado, 5 de marzo de 2011

Rebels 'beat back Libyan troops'

 
Zawiya resident Mohammed: 'Opposition fights are celebrating in the streets'
Rebels in Libya say they have repelled an attempt by government forces to retake the key city of Zawiya, just 50km (30 miles) west of Tripoli.
Following heavy fighting early on Saturday morning, a rebel told the BBC they had driven out government tanks from the city centre.
There are reports of heavy casualties.
Meanwhile, rebels fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi have taken control of the port of Ras Lanuf to the east of Tripoli, a BBC correspondent in the town says.
Observers say the overall balance of power is difficult to assess as the struggle for control over Libya continues.
In Tripoli, there is an air of growing confidence among regime loyalists as their control appears to be consolidated in Tripoli and other central areas, our correspondent there says
Ras Lanuf is the last town on the road to Sirte. Sirte is in the middle of Libya and is Col Gaddafi's home town and the base of the Gaddafi clan.
So if Ras Lanuf falls, the opposition, if they can get themselves organised as a fighting force, may move towards Sirte.
But in the last few minutes, two jets have flown overhead. There have been two large explosions and there is what appears to be a Russian attack helicopter on the horizon. That means Gaddafi forces may now be trying to take out the flank of the opposition forces.
However, if the opposition gains momentum and rallies its troops, it may move through the east in the coming days towards Misrata, the third city of Libya, and possibly on to the outskirts of Tripoli.
But elsewhere, correspondents say opposition forces have an enormous determination to overthrow his regime.
Gaddafi troops 'flee' Reports from Zawiya said the town had come under attack from both east and west from well-armed government forces. Dozens of people were reported dead.
Zawiya resident and rebel supporter Mohammed told the BBC that pro-Gaddafi troops "came from east and west and they took up positions in high-rise buildings... and started shooting", Mohammed said.
"Some tanks went to the square and were captured and burnt. There were some casualties among Gaddafi's troops and our troops - but Zawiya was never captured by Gaddafi's troops, this is confirmed.
"I am outside the square, Gaddafi's troops are nowhere to be seen, they have all fled," he told the BBC, with the sounds of rebels singing celebratory songs in the background.
Another Zawiya resident, Hussein, told the BBC that government forces had indeed been driven back.
But he said it followed a "big fight", in which there were many civilian deaths including women and children.
"There are people dying everywhere. It is a disaster what is happening in Zawiya. We really need some help," said Hussein.
But both said they feared another government assault - and a report from Reuters news agency confirmed pro-Gaddafi forces were just 3km (1.8 miles) from the city centre, apparently circling it in preparation for a fresh attack. In Ras Lanuf, an oil port east of Sirte - a key Gaddafi stronghold and his hometown - fierce fighting was also reported, with the sound of multiple explosions and heavy artillery.
But a BBC correspondent who reached the town on Saturday morning said rebels had now taken control of the town.
Pro-Gaddafi forces who had been in the town were believed to have moved about 40km (25 miles) to the west.
Pro-Gaddafi forces withdrew to Ras Lanuf two days ago after a battle a little further east in Brega.
Libya, military bases map The map above shows the locations and towns under the control of pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces
In other developments:
  • Hospital officials in opposition-held Benghazi say the death toll from a massive explosion at a weapons dump outside the city is at least 19, with the cause of the blast unknown
  • Libyan state TV accuses the Netherlands of spying, following the capture on Sunday of a Dutch navy helicopter and its three-strong crew by government militias
UN quandary In an attempt to launch a counter-attack on the diplomatic front, Col Gaddafi has appointed a new ambassador to the United Nations to replace the envoys who have come out against him.
But it is not clear whether Washington will grant the new envoy, Ali Abdussalam Treki, a visa to allow him to travel to New York.
The appointment of Mr Treki presents the UN with a quandary, says the BBC's Barbara Plett. The rogue deputy envoy, Ibrahim Dabashi, who denounced Col Gaddafi last week, told the BBC that both he and his superior were still hard at work at the UN.
A Libyan rebel fighter on the way to Ras Lanuf - 4 March 2011 Libyan rebels advanced to Ras Lanuf and claimed to have taken it
The Gaddafi government has the right to appoint envoys as it is still the recognised representative of Libya at the UN, adds our correspondent.
Also at the UN, Libya's Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa said in a letter to the Security Council that the sanctions against Col Gaddafi, his sons and aides should "be suspended until such time as the truth is known".
He said only a "modicum" of force had been used against anti-government demonstrators.
The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence in Libya.