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Libya:Gaddafi troops launch assault on Libya oil port

Reuters/ Asmaa Waguih

Rebels drive past a burning Al-Sedr Oil Terminal after it was hit by pro-Gaddafi
forces during clashes between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad March 9, 2011.

RAS LANUF, Libya, Mar 11, 2011

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi launched a sea and tank assault on the oil port of Ras Lanuf overnight, intensifying a counter-offensive against the out-gunned insurgents.

Government forces, with total air superiority and a big advantage in tanks, appear to have regained momentum in the three-week old conflict and if their push proceeds apace it could overtake sluggish international efforts to halt Gaddafi.

Rebel forces said they were still inside the residential area of Ras Lanuf on Friday and engaging Gaddafi troops who had landed by boat near the Fadeel hotel.

"Four boats carrying 40 to 50 men each landed there. We are fighting them right now," rebel spokesman Mohammed al-Mughrabi said, but he declined to say exactly where he was.

Rebel fighter Ibrahim al-Alwani said he and his comrades were still in Ras Lanuf and had seen government troops in the town center.

"I saw maybe 150 men and three tanks," he said. "I can hear clashes."

Salam al-Burqy, another rebel in Ras Lanuf, said insurgents had retreated but still controlled of parts of the town. "We are in control of the residential area in Ras Lanuf," he said. Later, rebels reported fighting in the same area.

Rebels also reported an air strike on Brega, another oil port 90 km (50 miles) to the east, on Thursday.

West of Tripoli, the revolt in Zawiyah appeared all but crushed, with insurgents clinging to only parts of the shattered city. Residents described scenes of carnage, with women and children among the dead.

One fighter said rebels had retaken the heart of Zawiyah from the army overnight, but authorities have kept journalists away from the town, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli.

"The really concerning thing is the reports we keep hearing of hospitals being targeted, of ambulances being used to transport troops and of medical supplies running out," said Baroness Amos, U.N. Under Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs.

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam told the rebels they faced a full-scale assault to crush their uprising which began after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in neighbouring Egypt a month ago.

"It's time for action. We are moving now," he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. He said the government had given the rebels two weeks for negotiations. "Time is out now."





Story by Michael Georgy and Maria Golovnina from Reuters.

Reuters Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:05am EST



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