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Thu 10 Mar 2011 03:47 PM

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Gaddafi forces hit oil town, rebels fire at gunboats

Font line has moved to-and-fro between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, around 550km east of Tripoli

Gaddafi forces hit oil town, rebels fire at gunboats
MISSILES FIRING: Muammar Gaddafis forces launched a fresh bombardment of the eastern Libyan oil town of Ras Lanuf on Thursday, rebels and witnesses said (Getty Images)
Gaddafi forces hit oil town, rebels fire at gunboats
Gaddafi forces hit oil town, rebels fire at gunboats

Muammar Gaddafi's forces launched a fresh bombardment of the eastern Libyan
oil town of Ras Lanuf on Thursday, rebels and witnesses said.

Bombs or missiles landed a few km (miles) from Ras Lanuf oil refinery and
close to a building of the Libyan Emirates Oil Refinery Company building, a witness
said.

"One bomb landed on a civilian house in Ras Lanuf," rebel fighter
Izeddine Sheikhy. He said the bombardment seemed to have come from the
direction of the sea.

"I saw ships yesterday and today. Missiles were being fired from
them," said rebel fighter Mohd Fadl.

Correspondents also saw an air strike from a plane over Ras Lanuf.
Witnesses said it struck near the town's eastern checkpoint. There were no
immediate reports of casualties.

The front line has moved to-and-fro between Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, roughly
550 km (340 miles) east of Tripoli.

Rebel fighters said on Thursday they were based on the outskirts of Bin
Jawad and near the oil complex of Es Sider, also known as Sidrah, which
suffered a direct hit in Wednesday's fighting, sending black smoke and flames
belching into the sky. Es Sider came under intense bombardment by government
forces again on Thursday.

That attack appeared to the be first on oil facilities, a move that has sent
jitters through the oil market, stoking fears of a broader effort to destroy
the OPEC producer's capacity and infrastructure, and raising concerns of Middle
East fall out.

Hassan Bulifa, a member of the board of east Libya's Arabian Gulf Oil Co
(Agoco), a unit of state oil firm National Oil Corp, said Agoco was arranging
to market oil direct to foreign buyers instead of through its state-owned
parent.

Rebels said there was heavy fighting reported around Bin Jawad on Thursday.
"Right now, there is a bloody fight ... between us and Gaddafi's mercenary
force for Bin Jawad," said Salem Abdel Wahad, a 30-year-old rebel soldier.

"They are exchanging rocket fire at the front," Salem El-Burqy
said, adding that Gaddafi's forces had tanks and warplanes, making it difficult
for rebels to advance with their relatively light arms.

It was not possible to independently confirm the reports. Earlier, rebels
fired rockets out to sea after reports that Libyan gunboats in the
Mediterranean were blamed for attacking rebel positions on the front line in
the oil-producing east.

A counter-offensive by forces loyal to Gaddafi has halted the rebels'
advance along Libya's eastern coast, where they have been forced to withdraw
from the town of Bin Jawad.

"We came into Bin Jawad but gunboats fired on us so we withdrew,"
fighter Adel Yahya said on Wednesday night.

Rebels, who have taken swathes of territory in the east and who are becoming
better organised, have been stopped from taking the coastal road west to the
prized target of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, by tanks and warplanes.

In the push from Libya's second city Benghazi, where the uprising started
and where the rebels now have their headquarters, the rebel army of defectors
and young volunteers has captured the oil towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf.

Rebels are frustrated a no-fly zone has not been imposed.

"We find one thing strange: the position of the United states. It's
impossible that the US would not have imposed a no-fly zone -- impossible --
unless they have some agreement with Gaddafi against the Libyan people,"
Wahad said.

Rebels have made a display at the main entrance to Ras Lanuf using rows of
bullet casings arranged liked dominos to read "Free Libya February
17".

Dr Gebril Hewadi of the Benghazi medical management committee told Reuters
television on Wednesday at least 400 people were killed in eastern Libya since
clashes began there on February 17, with many corpses yet to be recovered from
bomb sites.

Libyan state television broadcast what it said was a conversation between
the US ambassador, speaking in English through a translator, and Omar Hariri,
military representative of the rebel National Libyan Council, whom it described
as an "agent" and "lackey".

The ambassador asked how rebel headquarters could keep up regular contact
with fighters, what contacts Hariri had with towns like Zawiyah and what forces
he commanded. Hariri said he was in charge of forces in east Libya.

An American envoy left Cairo on Thursday on a plane to Salum on Egypt's
border with Libya, a Cairo airport official said. The official cited US embassy
staff as saying he would be following Libyan developments at first hand.

Two US military planes arrived in Cairo from Jerba in Tunisia carrying 150
Egyptians who had been working in Libya, the airport official said. Three
EgyptAir flights also arrived carrying 379 Egyptians.

The US has sent planes in recent days to repatriate Egyptians
after they fled to Tunisia from Libya.

 

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