Gaddafi's forces push rebels 40 kms east of oil port of Brega; anger mounts over alleged lack of air strikes by NATO
Libyan rebels headed
out of this eastern town on Wednesday, trying to regain
territory lost in a retreat to Muammar Gaddafi's forces, as
anger mounted over alleged lack of air strikes by NATO.
Gaddafi's forces pushed the rebels at least 40 kms east of
the oil port of Brega on Tuesday as an inconclusive see-saw
conflict continued along the Mediterranean coastal road.
Pick-up trucks loaded with machineguns and rocket launchers
headed west from Ajdabiyah while several families fleeing the
fighting in cars loaded with their belongings passed them in the
Hossam Ahmed, a defector from Gaddafi's army, said the
frontline was 40-60 km west of Adjabiyah, saying Tuesday's
retreat "wasn't a full withdrawal, it's back and forth.
Ajdabiyah, gateway to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, is
about 80 km east of Brega.
Like other rebels at Ajdabiyah's western gate, Ahmed
expressed frustration at the lack of NATO action. "There have
been no air strikes. We hear the sound but they don't bomb
anything," he said.
Another rebel, Khaled Al Obeidi said: "What has NATO done,
what has NATO bombed?"
Journalists were banned on Wednesday from heading west from
Ajdabiyah, making it difficult to assess the fighting.
"Can you go with Gaddafi's militias and do interviews with
them and photograph the tanks? Well now you can't with us
either," said Al Obeidi.
Rebel army leader Abdel Fattah Younes has accused NATO of
being too slow to order airstrikes, saying Gaddafi's forces have
been allowed to slaughter civilians in the besieged and isolated
western city of Misrata.
NATO denies the pace of air strikes has abated since it took
over from a coalition led by the United States, Britain and
France on March 31.
The conflict in the east has reached stalemate with Western
air power preventing Gaddafi landing a knockout blow and the
rebels' rag-tag army unable to push closer towards Tripoli.