Efforts step up for parallel govt in Libya; 74 killed

Last Updated: Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 21:36

Cairo: Libya on Saturday plunged into a civil
war with see-saw battles going on between Muammar Gaddafi
loyalists and rebels for territorial gains, leaving 74 dead in
one of the bloodiest day of fighting as the country`s
opposition held its first conclave apparently to form a
parallel government.

The efforts to form a self-declared national-council
comes as US and western countries as well as world bodies have
virtually derecognised the Gaddafi regime and interpol has
issued warrants against him and his family for genocide.

Rebels says that they have formed local councils in
cities they control in the eastern region with an aim to lead
the nation into election, local media reports said.

As ding-dong heavy battles and explosions continue
across the country, the US and NATO forces warships and
fighters were positioned of the strife torn country`s coast.

US President Barack Obama has said that the primary
mission of the task force is to undertake humanitarian
evacuation, "but all options were on the table."

While Gaddafi`s forces using tanks and heavy artillery
tried to retake towns in the country`s oil-rich east, where
the rebellion has left them without space, the rebels beat
back attacks on the key town of al-Zawiyah, close to the
capital Tripoli and overran oil town of Ras Lanuf.

At least 10 people have been killed and 20 injured in
Ras Lanuf, where Libyan rebels are locked in intense fighting
with the forces loyal to 68-year-old-Gaddafi. Media reports
said rebels were witnessed manning the oil-compounds, police
stations and army-barracks in the oil-rich town.

More than 20 people were injured in Ajdabiya where
fresh fightings between the rebels and Gaddafi forces have
erupted.

In another development, explosions at a military
arms depot outside the rebel-held city of Benghazi, which took
place minutes apart, left at least 34 people dead and dozens
injured, reports reaching here said.

Residence living upto 10 kms from the main weapons
depot said windows shook and an inferno lit up the sky. The
cause of the explosion was not immediately known, but rebels
said it could have been caused by air-raids or enemy agents.

Eyewitnesses quoted by al-Jazeera said that Gaddafi`s
forces in their desperate bid to widen the security belt
around Tripoli made three advances to capture al-Zawiyah, even
training tanks on residential buildings.

Conflicting reports were coming in about the battle,
with the town reported changing hands twice.

BBC said more than 30 people were killed when 15 tanks
and lorry loads of Gaddafi loyalists swarmed into the town,
getting into street fighting with the rebels.

"They came from the east and west and occupied high
rise buildings," BBC quoted a rebel fighter as saying, who
claimed that Gaddafi`s forces have been repelled.

"There tanks almost reached the city-square before
they were bombed off," the fighter said.

The rebellion in al Zawiyah - the closest rebel-held
territory to Gaddafi`s bastion of Tripoli and also the site of
an oil refinery - has been an embarrassment to the Libyan
authorities who are trying hard to demonstrate that they
control at least the west of the country.

Eastern regions of the country, around the city of
Benghazi, have already fallen out of Gaddafi`s control after a
popular revolt against his 41-year rule which began in
mid-February.

Amid the heavy fighting the Libyan opposition
announced that it held its first formal meeting at a secret
location apparently to announce a parallel government.

Gaddafi`s warplanes had earlier attacked military
bases overrun by rebels, though they had missed their targets.

Earlier yesterday, clashes briefly erupted after the
Friday prayers in the capital Tripoli.

Braving the large presence of gun-totting security
personnel and mercenaries, over 1,000 protesters hit the
streets in large numbers after the Friday prayers, demanding
ouster of the Libyan ruler and chanting slogans like "Gaddafi
is the enemy of God", witnesses said.

They were tear-gassed and fired upon by the forces
loyal to Gaddafi.

Media reports said the protesters tore down posters of
the Libyan leader and spray-painted walls with graffiti such
as: "Down with Gaddafi" and "Tajoura will dig your grave."

For the first time since the uprising began on
February 15, Interpol issued an Orange Notice against Gaddafi
and 15 other Libyans, including members of his family and
close associates.

The Interpol alert is aimed at ensuring that law
enforcement agencies in each of the world police bodies in
188-member countries take all necessary measures to
enforce travel ban against the Libyan leader and others.

Fierce fighting was also reported outside Ras Lanuf
town, with the sound of multiple explosions and heavy
artillery being heard after opposition fighters advanced on
the city, BBC said. Pro-Gaddafi forces withdrew to Ras Lanuf
two days ago after a battle.

Rebels at Ras Lanuf later told the media they had
taken complete control of the town, but there was no
independent confirmation.

There were also conflicting reports about the
situation in Brega. Some government sources were quoted as
saying that the town was in rebel hands, while others insisted
it was not.

Earlier yesterday, Libyan forces carried out an air
strike near a military base on the western outskirts of
Ajdabiya, a town that fell in the hands of the anti-Gaddafi
rebels. However, media reports said there were no casualties
or damage.

In Caracas, Venezuela`s Foreign Minister Nicolas
Maduro said that Libya has given go-ahead to his country to
form a mission to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in
the North African country, a day after the US and France
rejected the Venezuelan mediation offer.

Meanwhile, the United States dispatched its two
military aircraft ? under a code-name `Operation Odyssey Dawn`
-- to Tunisia border last evening with relief supplies for
thousands of foreigners fleeing Libya.

A day after US President Barack Obama made the
announcement, the State Department and Pentagon said two C-130
military transports have landed in Djerba, Tunisia, delivering
humanitarian supplies from the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID).

The Pentagon, which has sent considerable air and
naval assets to the region along with 400 marines, said it is
closely monitoring the situation in Libya.

"We have seen very clearly broadcast reports showing
effects of air power being used. Whether or not those were
used on rebels, I can`t say but ... there is evidence they
have used air assets and dropped ordnance," Pentagon
spokesman, Col Dave Lapan, told reporters in Washington.

Over one lakh people have fled Libya, where the
violence in the uprising against Gaddafi has killed at least
1,000, according to UN estimates.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 21:36

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