Rebel army quashes claims #Libya rebels took #Brega

THE Libyan rebel army said the eastern oil town of Braga still remains in the hands of Colonel Gadaffi forces despite claims of its ‘liberation’ last night.

The town, three hours east of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, has swapped hands repeatedly as both sides fight over its strategic position and precious oil.

On Friday night television networks and reports allegedly from the frontline claimed the oil town had fallen much to the delight of thousands of Libyans in Tahrir Square in Benghazi.

But this afternoon (Saturday) Colonel Ahmad Bani spokesman for the Coalition of Revolutionary Forces said the interim government, the National Transitional Council, had never officially declared Brega had been taken.

However he announced that the Coalition had started a new offensive on the city at 4pm today Libyan time.

“The coming days will prove decisive,” he said, refusing to be drawn on a time frame but insisted the rebel soldiers would fight through Ramadan supported by NATO.

Separately the Colonel said Gadaffi was still getting supplies from ‘you know who’ referring to African nations such as Algeria, Chad and Zimbabwe who still support the dictator.

 

Rebels take oil town

TAHRIR Square in downtown Benghazi erupted with chants of ‘God is Great’ last night as news was broadcast live that rebel soldiers had taken the key town of Braga from Gadaffi’s forces.

Control of the oil town 300km west of the rebel stronghold Benghazi has swapped hands several times between the two sides with rebel leaders claiming to have taken the town before only to later admit it was still in the hands of Gadaffi loyalists.

The fall of the oil refinery into rebel hands will put further pressure on the capital Tripoli where reports of fuel shortages are rife while giving a much needed boost to Benghazi which is experiencing fuel shortages with long queues at petrol stations.

At a recent demonstration  in Tahrir (Freedom) Square in Benghazi thousands of people called for western countries to transfer control of Libyan money and assets to the temporary government, the National Transitional Council, to buy desperately needed supplies including fuel, food and medicine and to pay public sector workers.

The news comes as the US and more than 30 other countries recognised the NTC as the official authority of the North African state allowing it to borrow money on the back of future revenues.

Ismail El-Faltouri, from Benghazi, said: “Braga is very important for us. I work for the electrical company and we need gas from Braga for our power stations.”

Mr El-Faltouri also said the victory will lead to more victories over Gadaff’s troops further along the coast.

He said: “After Braga we will now take the next town and then Surt [Gadaffi’s hometown] and then we are going to Tripoli believe me.”

But he dismissed Gadaffi’s threat to blow up the capital if the rebels attempt to take it saying “the people of Tripoli will stop him”.

Teenager abandons exams to join revolution

A TEENAGER has abandoned her GCSE exams and returned to Libya to witness the historical events playing out across the country as President Muammar Gadaffi is forced from power by a popular revolution.

Amina Al-Moghrabi, who attends Crescent Community High School, in Dennison Road, Rusholme, Manchester, returned to her parents home-city of Benghazi after becoming overwhelmed with emotion watching the events unfold on television.

The 16-year-old from Moss Side was not even born when her parents were forced to flee the country for speaking out against the dictator 23-years-ago.

Amina joined a protest in Freedom Square to call on the international community to return their money

At a demonstration to support the revolution in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Amina said: “It’s (the revolution) just amazing. It brought a tear to my eye when I first entered the borders because it felt like you can finally feel the freedom.

“Back in Manchester we were crying every day because we really wanted to come here and become official members of the 17th February movement,” – the day the revolt against Gadaffi began in Benghazi.

The dictator has ruled the country for 43 years with an iron fist investing very little of the country’s oil wealth on improving the lives its people.

In February the uprising took off in her parents hometown after oppressed Libyans were inspired by similar events in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

It is only the second time Amina has returned to Libya but she feels a strong connection with the place.

She said: “We’re going to stay for two months. I would love to stay for ever but I have to go back and finish my studies; I’m still doing my GCSEs.”

By Friday more than 30 country’s had recognised the temporary rebel authority, the Transitional National Council, as the official government signalling an end to Gadaffi’s time in power.

However the rebel coalition’s army is far from ‘liberating’ the whole country from Gadaffi’s forces with some countries now pushing for a negotiated settlement to prevent further killing.

Gadaffi troops indiscriminately target civilians

LIBYAN leader Muammar Gadaffi has been accused of using weapons banned under international law after a rocket loaded with ball bearings landed in the front yard of a civilian house.

 

The Shuaib family had a lucky escape as a rocket detonated in the front yard

The incident on Wednesday, in the coastal town of Ajdabiya situated about two hours west of the rebel stronghold Benghazi, left four people injured including a groom due to marry that day, according to the owner of the house Aguila Shuaib.

There had been no fighting in the town at the time with the frontline some 40km away.

Attacking civilian areas indiscriminately violates international law and can constitute a war crime.

Mr Shuaib and his family were inside the house having breakfast when they heard the explosion that blew doors off the house and destroyed two cars at around 9am but were unharmed.

However four people preparing for a wedding in the street behind were hit in the body and neck by the small pieces of metal that pierced thick metal gates eight metres from the explosion.

He said: “I was terrified. The kids were shouting. I didn’t expect a missile to reach my house [but] I am not surprised because last time he [Gadaffi] bring an army with him.

“There were four people inju

red. The groom was injured at the same time. It was his wedding day for him and he prepare for the wedding and out of the blue the rocket attack the house.”

The wedding went ahead the following day.

Mr Shuaib said it was the first time he had known such a weapon to be used and it is a further sign that Gadaffi is prepared to target civilians after threatening on Thursday to bomb the capital Tripoli if the rebels attempt to take the city.

He said: “It [the ball bearings] spread all over the area. The car was destroyed and the house was destroyed from the inside and the door is completely destroyed; it is metal. It’s a new kind of weapon. This is forbidden internationally.”

The rocket was one of three to hit the town, that is around 80km east of Braga, an oil town that has been the focal point of intense fighting between the two sides, on the day, according to residents and rebel fighters.

Dozens of pick-up trucks with heavy weapons mounted on the back could be seen on the coastal road ferrying rebel soldiers to and from the frontline outside the town.

On Thursday night reports from the frontline claimed Braga had been taken by the rebels but by Friday morning it became clear it was still in Gadaffi’s hands.

Rebels will fight through Ramadan

THE leader of the new Libyan rebel coalition has said his volunteer army will continue to fight Gadaffi’s troops through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – that starts August 2 – if they have still failed to take the capital Tripoli.

Recent reports suggest the president could be ready to step down under a brokered deal but the Coalition will continue to fight on until a conclusion is met.

Fauzy Bokatif, the head of the new Coalition of the Revolutionary Forces that brings all rebel groups under one command, said at a press conference on Tuesday that significant progress was being made on the western front.

He also said he would have some ‘good news’ to announce by Thursday promising journalists a trip to the frontline which was later withdrawn possibly in the hope of having taken Brega, an oil town west of Benghazi, that still remains in Gadaffi’s hands.

However Ismail Alsalaby, the Coalition’s battlefield commander, said on Tuesday: “Our focus is on Tripoli and the western front,” adding, “we will see in the next few days the results of our operations.”

The international appetite for the continuing offensive supported by NATO air-power is waning as the conflict draws into its fifth month with increasing casualties that has led to the UN, France, Russia and the African Union all leaning towards a negotiated settlement.

However the rebel leaders, the USA, Britain, France and Russia have all said Gaddafi must step down as part of any agreement.

Alain Juppe, France’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday that indications are that the president is indeed ready to go but Libyans in Benghazi said they will believe it when they see it believing he is playing for time.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan beginning on August 1 pressure is mounting to reach a conclusion to the conflict by the end of July.

However Bokatif said ‘no outside forces were dictating the revolutionary force’s strategy.”

Abdul Jawad, the central battlefield commander and Coalition spokesman, said progress had been slow as it had taken time to align his forces, bring in artillery and tanks and dig trenches.

He said: “Transforming a volunteer army into a traditional army takes time and this is what we have been doing,” adding, “the tactics have become more like a traditional war.”

The majority of soldiers have never held a gun before let alone launched a rocket.

Jawad said that the rebels were not working to any time frame and were prepared to fight during Ramadan if necessary.

He said: “Those who are on the frontline and committed to their objectives are not under pressure to fulfil any time frame.”

On Thursday evening reports from the frontline said Brega had been taken but by morning it was acknowledged a further offensive would be needed.

At the Coalition’s unveiling it was stated that its objectives were to liberate Libya from Gadaffi’s forces, support the interim government in Benghazi, the Transitional National Council, and control the spread of arms in the south.