[Marxism] Libya: fighting continues, tension rises at Algeria border
ffeldman at verizon.net
Mon Sep 26 07:37:38 MDT 2011
Libyan government seeks Algerian answers over cross-border attack
Eight NTC fighters killed in attack by pro-Gaddafi forces near Ghadames,
while siege of Sirte continues
Ian Black in Tripoli, Chris Stephen in Misrata and Lizzy Davies
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 September 2011 11.54 EDT
The provisional government in Tripoli will ask Algeria to explain how
pro-Gaddafi forces crossed the border to attack its forces on Saturday,
the Libyan army chief spokesman has said. Eight were killed in the
attack near Ghadames.
Algeria announced last week that it recognised the authority of the
National Transitional Council (NTC) in Tripoli, but suspicions linger
about its attitude, not least because it has given shelter to Muammar
Gaddafi's wife, daughter and other relatives.
The NTC fears Gaddafi loyalists could be able to mount attacks easily
across the border and then escape back into Algerian territory. "We
didn't expect this attack but they will pay for it," said Colonel Ahmed
Bani, the Libyan army's chief spokesman. "Our fighters are going to
Libya's revolutionary fighters stepped up attempts to capture the city
of Sirte, reinforcing their siege of Gaddafi's stronghold in an effort
to place maximum pressure on those inside who are loyal to the deposed
Interim government forces set up new roadblocks and checkpoints and
posted snipers at strategic locations on Sunday, a day after mounting a
push that reportedly saw them enter the city from east and west and come
within a mile of the centre.
Bani said Libyan forces had intercepted a telephone conversation on
Saturday between Gaddafi's sons Mutasim, organising the fighting in
Sirte, and Saif al-Islam, in Bani Walid, where a military stalemate has
exposed rifts and inefficiency in rebel ranks.
It was the first official confirmation of the location of the two
fugitive Gaddafi sons. Bani said NTC forces had raided a remote area
called Targan, south of Sebha, after receiving information that Gaddafi
himself was there, but found no trace of him.
Despite overthrowing Gaddafi's regime last month, the NTC has not been
able to take control of all of Libya. Sirte, the birthplace of Gaddafi,
Bani Walid and pockets in the south of the country have remained in the
hands of loyalists to the old regime.
Saturday's breakthrough at Sirte came at a heavy cost, with seven rebel
fighters dead and 145 wounded in fierce battles. Commanders said it was
their intention to finally take Sirte on Sunday, but admitted that
Monday or Tuesday might be more realistic.
The biggest rebel brigade in Misrata, Halbus, is to be thrown into
battle after returning to Sirte from the newly captured towns of Hun and
Waddan further south. Nato was also keeping up its assault on Sirte,
hitting four targets in pre-dawn air strikes.
Bani said rebel forces were now in full control of the main coastal road
south of Sirte. That means the new regime controls the highway across
the entire north of Libya, from the Tunisian border in the west to the
Egyptian one in the east.
There are rising concerns over the humanitarian situation in Sirte,
which is believed to be rapidly deteriorating. Nato has warned that
Gaddafi forces are endangering "hundreds of families".
"Among the reports emerging from Sirte are executions, hostage-taking
and the calculated targeting of individuals, families and communities
within the city," it said in a statement.
On Saturday, the BBC reported, the transitional authorities came closer
than ever to victory when troops entered after weeks of deadlock and
advanced far along the road to the centre. But after coming under
sustained fire from pro-Gaddafi fighters, the forces withdrew and
regrouped overnight. Unconfirmed reports said the forces had been
ordered to leave Sirte by Nato.
An NTC fighter, El-Tohamy Abuzein, said snipers had fired at him and
fellow fighters from mosques and other buildings. "They're using the
houses and public buildings," he told Reuters.
Helicopters ferried the injured to a hospital in Misrata which was so
overwhelmed that surgeons had to carry out operations in corridors.
Loudspeaker trucks broadcasting Islamic chants toured the city to give
comfort to the bereaved.
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