Libya's Benghazi remains quiet as clashes go on

Updated: 2011-04-06 20:22


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BENGHAZI, Libya- Libya's second largest city of Benghazi remained quiet on Wednesday though anti- government militants pulled back from Brega due to fierce attacks by troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

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"The Western coalition has not launched air strikes against Gadhafi's troops in Brega for two days and we have to retreat from the battle field for a few kilometers without the covering fire," an anti-government fighter said.

"Gadhafi's troops shelled the front line with tanks and we have no advanced weapons to fight against them," he added.    

The Xinhua correspondents were denied entry to Brega by the fighters who were about 10 km away from the oil port. They said that it was too dangerous for journalists to enter the battlefield center, which is about 170 km from Benghazi.

The Libyan government said on Tuesday it was ready to negotiate reforms, but refused any talks about Muammar Gadhafi's stepping down, according to Al-Arabiya TV.

Libya's Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim denied allegations that Gadhafi's forces were committing atrocities on civilians.

"We are fighting armed militia and you are not civilian if you take up arms against the state," he said.

Fierce fighting continued in Libya. The anti-government fighters rallied in Ajdabiya, which is about 40 km east of Brega and is currently under control of the fighters, and then streamed into Brega as severe clashes continued at the front line.

Most of the residents have fled Ajdabiya after Gadhafi's troops gained control of the town last month when they arrived at the outskirts of Benghazi. The government troops were forced to retreat to Ras Lanuf, another oil port that is more than 200 km southwest of Benghazi, after the Western coalition launched air strikes against them following a UN resolution that imposed a no- fly zone over Libya.

About 10 tanks destroyed by Western warplanes and dozens of cars that were burned down were scattered by the side of the road which links Brega and Benghazi.

The anti-government militants said that a French journalist was captured on Tuesday by the government troops after he managed to break into the front line.

Benghazi, home to more than one million residents and currently hosts hundreds of foreign journalists, remained quiet on Wednesday despite the retreat of the anti-government fighters.

"We have enough food and other daily necessities in Benghazi. You can go to the shops and see if I am correct," said Abdela Elfetouly, a resident in the base of anti-government militants.

Small scale demonstrations against Gadhafi's rule took place in Benghazi's Revolutionary Square, which is called Court Square before the unrest erupted in Libya on February 17.

People in Benghazi put hundreds of photos of the dead and the disappeared on the wall beside the square, which is called the "Martyr Wall," in memory of those who died or disappeared in the clashes with Gadhafi's troops.

A man in his fifties said that the anti-government militants need the help of the Western coalition to fight against Gadhafi's troops, but he refused to accept ground troops of the western countries, saying no foreign troops should step on Libya's soil.


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