Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Libyan rebels again driven out of Ras Lanouf
Libyan rebels pulled out of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on Wednesday under heavy bombardment from Muammar Gaddafi's forces, showing up their weakness without Western air strikes to tip the scales in their favor.
The rapid reverse comes just two days after the rebels raced westwards along the coastal road in hot pursuit of the government army. Gaddafi's forces first ambushed the insurgent pick-up convoy outside Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which the rebels eralier failed to take. Then they outflanked them through the desert, a maneuver requiring the sort of discipline entirely lacking in rag-tag rebel force.
On the offensive, government tanks and artillery have unleashed a fierce bombardment on towns and cities which has usually forced rebels to swiftly flee. That tactic appears to have worked once again in Ras Lanuf, an oil terminal town, 375 km east of the capital Tripoli.
"Gaddafi hit us with huge rockets. He has entered Ras Lanuf," rebel fighter Faraj Muftah told Reuters after pulling out of Ras Lanuf. "We were at the western gate in Ras Lanuf and we were bombarded," said a second fighter, Hisham.
A conference of 40 governments and international bodies agreed to press on with a NATO-led aerial bombardment of Libyan forces until Gaddafi complied with a U.N. resolution to end violence against civilians.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday 115 strike sorties had been flown against Gaddafi's forces in the previous 24 hours, and 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired. Britain said two of its Tornado fighter-bombers had attacked a government armored vehicle and two artillery pieces outside the besieged western town of Misrata.