Heavy fighting awakens key front line in Libya

BENGHAZI, Libya — Rebels battled Moammar Gadhafi’s forces on a deadlocked front line in eastern Libya, and NATO warplanes struck Tripoli early Tuesday in the heaviest bombing of the Libyan capital in weeks.

In this photo taken on a government organized tour

In this photo taken on a government organized tour

BENGHAZI, Libya — Rebels battled Moammar Gadhafi’s forces on a deadlocked front line in eastern Libya, and NATO warplanes struck Tripoli early Tuesday in the heaviest bombing of the Libyan capital in weeks.

Overnight, NATO warplanes struck at least four sites in Tripoli, setting off crackling explosions that thundered through the Libyan capital.

One strike hit a building that local residents said was used by a military intelligence agency. Another targeted a government building that officials said was sometimes used by parliament members.

It was not immediately clear what the other two strikes hit, but one of them sent plumes of smoke over the city. Libyan officials would not say what that strike hit but the smoke appeared to come from the sprawling compound housing members of Gadhafi’s family.

Between explosions, an aircraft dropped burning flares. Some residents responded by raking the sky with gunfire and beeping their horns.

On the front line, heavy fighting was reported Monday south of Ajdabiya, a rebel-held town about 90 miles (150 kilometres) south of Benghazi, the rebel headquarters in the east.

Hundreds of rebels gathered at a checkpoint outside Ajdabiya on Monday afternoon, when an AP photographer counted about 100 pickup trucks coming back from the front, each carrying four or five fighters and some with mounted submachine guns.

The rebels, firing their weapons into the air as they shouted and danced, said they had been told that NATO was going to launch airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces and they had been ordered to withdraw temporarily from the front.

No overall casualty figures were available. Two ambulances came to the local hospital, and doctors said they carried the bodies of four rebels.

The cobbled-together rebel army — comprised of some deserters from Gadhafi’s forces and many civilians — has been bogged down for weeks in the area around Ajdabiya, unable to move on to the oil town of Brega. The rebels say their weapons cannot reach more than about 12 miles (20 kilometres) while Gadhafi’s forces can fire rockets and shells up to twice that distance. Brega has an oil terminal and Libya’s second-largest hydrocarbon complex.

Rebel pleas for heavier arms from abroad have not met any response, although NATO is carrying out airstrikes on regime forces as many countries intensify their call for Gadhafi — Libya’s autocratic ruler for 42 years — to leave power.

The rebels now control most of eastern Libya, and Gadhafi most of the west, including the capital, Tripoli. Exceptions in the west include pockets of embattled rebel-held towns along the border with Tunisia, and Misrata on the coast.

On Monday, Gadhafi’s forces shelled a northern neighbourhood where many families from the besieged city centre have fled to, said Abdel Salam, who identified himself as a resident-turned-fighter.

He said NATO airstrikes hit targets on the city’s southern edges, one of the areas where government forces have been concentrated after rebels pushed them back.

The fighting was threatening the port area, the city’s only lifeline, preventing some aid ships from docking, Abdel Salam said.

“We are in dire need for humanitarian and medical supplies. We also need arms and ammunition for self-defence,” he said. “We have no way to get this as long as the port is not secure.”

A ship carrying medical supplies and baby food was able to dock in Misrata on Monday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It was the first ship to arrive since Wednesday, when Gadhafi’s forces fired a barrage of rockets into the port as the International Organization of Migration was evacuating nearly 1,000 people, mainly African migrant workers.

On Saturday, a rocket attack set the city’s main fuel depot ablaze, destroying the main supply for vehicles, ships and generators powering hospitals and other key sites in a city darkened by electricity cuts.

The ICRC said it would use the chartered ship as a floating platform as its team works to reduce the danger of unexploded weapons on the streets of Misrata, visit prisoners detained by the rebels and help reunite families that lost contact when the city centre was bombed.

The ship brought in 8,000 jars of baby food as well as urgently needed surgical instruments and medical dressings.

The ship docked safely though Gadhafi’s forces were seen dropping mines into the port on Saturday from a white helicopter painted with a red cross, according to rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga and Misrata residents.

The ICRC said it was concerned by those allegations of “a serious misuse of the emblem” designated by the Geneva Conventions to be used solely by people providing medical or other humanitarian aid.

A civilian spokesman for the rebels in Misrata, lawyer Abdulbaset Abumzirig, said Sunday that 30 to 40 people are injured daily and 10 to 15 are being killed by the bombardment. The city has been under siege for two months, and local doctors say the total death toll is more than 1,000.

In Tripoli, government escorts did not allow reporters to come near the site of one building that was hit in the NATO air attack early Tuesday. Local residents said the several-story building, which had buckled from the bombing, was used by a military intelligence agency.

Reporters were shown damage done to a nearby hospital where some windows were smashed and some ceiling vents fell to the ground. A hospital physician, Dr. Mustafa Rahim, said one child was badly injured but would not allow reporters to see him, saying the four-year-old boy was in intensive care.

Another strike targeted a building that two employees said was used by parliament members and housed a library for research into Gadhafi’s writings. It was the second time the building had been targeted in the past week, they said.

A hole was punched into what appeared to be its basement and thick blocks of concrete were reduced to dusty rubble.

The handsome pastel-colored building was built by Italians when they ruled Libya in the 1920s. The building, which once served as Italy’s naval headquarters, was considered an iconic Tripoli site.

It was not immediately clear what the other strikes targeted. Reporters may not leave their Tripoli hotel without government escorts.

Also in the capital, a Muslim member of Britain’s House of Lords warned of “genocide” if Libya’s chaos continues,

Lord Nazir Ahmed said he feared that if Gadhafi’s forces seized control of areas currently ruled by rebels — or vice versa — there could be widespread revenge killings.

“God forbid if any one side wins — for instance, if the government takes control of Benghazi, what would happen to all those rebels?” he said. “And if they (the rebels) win, what will happen to the government supporters?”

Ahmed spoke before a meeting with Libyan tribal chiefs as a part of a two-day private fact finding mission. He said he would seek to visit rebel-ruled eastern Libya soon.

Meanwhile, the U.N. humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, asked all sides in the fighting for a pause in hostilities to allow food, water, medical supplies and other aid to be delivered to needy populations.

She told the Security Council the pause would also allow humanitarian workers to evacuate people from other countries who still remain in Libya and would give civilians a respite.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Most unvaccinated Canadians uncomfortable with AstraZeneca vaccine: survey

Just 41 per cent of Canadians who aren’t vaccinated, but intend to… Continue reading

Advocate file photo
Red Deer County approves winery

Winery proposed for rural property northwest of Innisfail

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that was administered to seniors, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated for possible links to blood clots, though the syndrome appears to be extremely rare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Canada receives report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

OTTAWA — A Quebec woman is the first in Canada to develop… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

A vial of the vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Federal health officials in the U.S. said early Tuesday they were urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots, and officials in Washington state and around the country quickly complied. (Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Advance Media)
How J&J and AstraZeneca differ from the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has hit a stumbling block in… Continue reading

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Ottawa
Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Most Read