Sunday, September 18, 2011

Libyan Loyalists Repel Western-backed Rebels

Libyan Rebels Repelled From Qadaffi Stronghold

By Christopher Stephen and Mark Drajem - Sep 18, 2011

Libyan opposition fighters were forced to retreat from their charge on the town of Bani Walid, as they massed forces for an attack on Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Qaddafi.

Anti-Qaddafi forces tried several times to take Bani Walid, only to be repelled in chaos by Qaddafi loyalists defending the city, rebel commanders told Al Jazeera television in Libya. Forces of the National Transitional Council did capture the town of Zella near the Qaddafi stronghold city of Jufra, and Sultan, which lies east of Sirte, Al Jazeera said.

Members of the National Transitional Council meeting in the eastern city of Benghazi to form a cabinet, is continuing its negotiations, interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in a news conference. The council is working to establish its authority in the capital and form diplomatic ties abroad.

In Yemen, government forces fired on activists in the capital city of Sana’a, killing as many as 26 people and injuring more than 300 as protests intensified against the regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Tarik al-Duais, a doctor at a field clinic, said by phone.

Yesterday’s rally followed a call by the Organizing Committee of the Popular Youth Revolution for an escalation of protests, with the committee asking Yemenis to remove the “remains of the regime,” according to an e-mailed statement. Protesters managed to push back a mix of government forces and plainclothes supporters of the regime, said Mohammed al Sharabi, a protest activist.

Armored Vehicles

Security force reinforcements, including troops and armored vehicles, have been deployed in the city and some streets are blocked, according to Ahmed Najmeddin, a witness.

Saleh has been recuperating in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in a June attack on his compound. Gulf Arab countries have failed in repeated efforts to get the president and opposition to sign a power-transfer agreement and end months of unrest.

Separately, troops loyal to Saleh fought yesterday with supporters of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribal confederation, in the al-Hasaba northern neighborhood of Sana’a, resident Naseem Humaid said by telephone.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad hosted a Russian parliamentary delegation, which began four days of talks with political, social and religious figures in the country, the Associated Press reported.

‘Natural Atmosphere’

Assad’s supporters and opponents must negotiate in a “natural atmosphere without violence,” Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said according to AP.

In Libya, rebel fighters positioned heavy artillery near Sirte overnight in preparation for the assault on loyalist forces. The coastal city, one of the last places to hold out against the rebels, has been the focus of fierce fighting since last week. At least 18 soldiers have been killed and 51 wounded in the area since Sept. 15, the opposition’s military council in Misrata, said yesterday.

NATO aircraft destroyed a loyalist ammunition dump yesterday to the west of Sirte and have been carrying out “intensive armed reconnaissance missions” over the city, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at

No comments: