Libya: Rebels Say They Are Being Armed By 'Friendly Countries'

by
Jackson
Rebels fighting a desperate action to hold the east of Libya against forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi say they have begun to receive arms shipments from friendly countries, Gaddafi's troops stepped up attacks in Ajdabiya and Misurata.

Rebel fighters are seen during a heavy sandstorm at the eastern entrance of Ajdabiyah April 17, 2011. Rebels came under fire on the outskirts of Ajdabiyah on Sunday, hemming them in to their eastern outpost and denting their hopes of pushing west to try to end a stalemate in the Libyan war.

Rebels fighting a desperate action to hold the east of Libya against forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi say they have begun to receive arms shipments from friendly countries, Gaddafi's troops stepped up attacks in Ajdabiya and Misurata.

Gen Abdul Fattah Younis, the former Gaddafi interior minister who now leads the rebel army, did not specify who was supplying him with weapons or give details of the armaments involved.

But Qatar, host of the meeting last week of countries opposed to Col Gaddafi's rule, had said as recently as last Thursday that it was ready to send supplies.

Rebel fighters are seen during a heavy sandstorm at the eastern entrance of Ajdabiyah April 17, 2011. Rebels came under fire on the outskirts of Ajdabiyah on Sunday, hemming them in to their eastern outpost and denting their hopes of pushing west to try to end a stalemate in the Libyan war.

Separately, Britain has pledged to send 1,000 sets of body armour.

"Our situation is very good, thank God," Gen Younis said to the Dubai-based television station, Al-Arabiya, in confirming the weapons supplies.

But as European nations debate the extent to which their air campaign against Col Gaddafi's tanks can be extended within the remit of United Nations Resolution 1973, it limitations were clearly on view over the weekend.

Air raids in recent days have enabled rebel forces to regather in front of the key town of Ajdabiya and advance once again on the oil port and refinery of Brega to the west.

On Sunday, however, a sandstorm protected pro-regime forces and they were able to skirt the advancing rebels to the south. By Sunday afternoon, the western outskirts of Ajdabiya were being shelled from a distance of about 12 to 13 miles, rebels said.

Rebel fighters are seen during a heavy sandstorm at the eastern entrance of Ajdabiyah April 17, 2011. Rebels came under fire on the outskirts of Ajdabiyah on Sunday, hemming them in to their eastern outpost and denting their hopes of pushing west to try to end a stalemate in the Libyan war.

Hundreds of residents and some fighters were later seen fleeing towards the rebel capital to the north, Benghazi, while those who remained prepared barricades in expectation of a full-scale government assault.

"The weather is no good today. Nato hasn't hit anything," one fighter, Ahmed al-Zuwaihi, told Reuters. "It's a big opportunity for Gaddafi and he's taking advantage of it. He might enter Ajdabiya today. Today the planes are not going to hit anything."

The French defence minister, Gerard Longuet, suggested the problem continued to lie in the nature of the fighting, with a fast-moving front line consisting mainly of streams of pickup trucks carrying both sides' lightly armed troops providing few clear targets.

"The problem is that we're missing concrete and verifiable information on identified objectives on the ground," he said in a newspaper interview, dismissing claims that the coalition lacked aircraft.

At the same time, other rebel forces were said to be close to the outskirts of Brega, though six were said to have been killed by government rocket attacks.

A Libyan rebel, known by his comrades as 'Che' for his resemblance to revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara, guards an area with his colleages near the western gate of Ajdabiya after rebels re-controlled the area following heavy fighting against forces loyal to Libya's stromgman Moamer Kadhafi, on April 17, 2011.

Further west, there was continued heavy fighting in the besieged city of Misurata, as evacuation of the injured by boat continued. A rebel spokesman said six people had been killed in further shelling by government troops yesterday morning, and 47 wounded.

Libyan state television said there were also allied bombing raids to the south-west of Tripoli and on the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte, on the coast between Misurata and Ajdabiya.

Telegraph