Out­gunned Libyan rebels flee oil town

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

LOYALIST forces have over­run the Libyan oil town of Ras Lanuf, scat­ter­ing out­gunned rebels as world pow­ers de­bate arm­ing the rag-tag fight­ers seek­ing to oust Muam­mar Gaddafi.

Rebel fight­ers said Gaddafi’s troops last night swept through Ras Lanuf, strate­gic for its oil re­fin­ery, blaz­ing away with tanks and heavy ar­tillery fire.

Pan­icked rebels fled in their hun­dred sthrough Uqayla, 20km east of Ras Lanuf, call­ing for coali­tion air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces, be­fore driv­ing fur­ther away from the front lines through the oil town of Brega and on to­wards the main city of Ajd­abiya, 120km away.

‘‘ We want two things: that the planes drop bombs on Gaddafi’s tanks and heavy ar­tillery; and that they ( the coali­tion f or­ces) give us weapons so we can fight,’’ rebel fighter Yunes Ab­del­ghaim said.

The 27-year-old, who was hold­ing a Rus­sian AK-47 as­sault ri­fle and French flag, said it seemed as if the coali­tion had halted its air strikes for two days co­in­cid­ing with a Lon­don con­fer­ence on the Libyan cri­sis.

‘‘ We want the French to bomb the (Gaddafi) sol­diers, ’’ said an­other f i ghter, Ali Ati­aal-Fa­turi, as the sound of shelling and gun­fire grew louder.

On Tues-day the rebels came within 100km of Sirte, the strong­man’s home­town, be­fore en­coun­ter­ing fierce re­sis­tance which re­versed an ad­vance launched when Bri­tain, France and t he United States started UN- man­dated air strikes on March 19. Un­der bar­rages of ar­tillery fire, rebel fight­ers stam­peded down the coastal road in clouds of dust, many flee­ing aboard pick up trucks.

They hud­dled down in Ras Lanuf overnight but soon af­ter dawn Gaddafi’s forces launched their on­slaught.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron re­fused yes­ter­day to rule out arm­ing the rebels af­ter French For­eign Min­is­ter Alain Juppe said at a Lon­don con­fer­ence the pre­vi­ous day that France was pre­pared to hold dis­cus­sions on the is­sue.

Asked in par­lia­ment what Bri­tain’s pol­icy was on arm­ing the rebels, given the ex­is­tence of a United Na­tions arms em­bargo on Libya, Cameron replied: ‘‘ We do not rule it out but we have not taken the de­ci­sion to do so’’.

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said Moscow be­lieved that for­eign pow­ers did not have the right to arm the rebels un­der the man­date ap­proved by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Bel­gium, too, voiced its op­po­si­tion to arm­ing Libya’s rebels, warn­ing that the move could alien­ate Arab na­tions.


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