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Wed 6 Apr 2011 01:53 PM

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Libyan rebels try to push back towards Brega

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 try to push back towards Brega
(Getty Images)
Libyan rebels try to push back towards Brega
Libyan rebels try to push back towards Brega

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

opposite direction.

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.