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Fighting Continues in Libya as Opposition Seeks to Organize Resistance

  • Scott Bobb

Libyan rebel scans the field as they wait for the signal to advance at an intersection just outside Brega, Libya, April 3, 2011

Libyan rebel scans the field as they wait for the signal to advance at an intersection just outside Brega, Libya, April 3, 2011

Opposition forces in Libya Sunday continued to battle troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi around the oil-town of Brega, 800 kilometers east of Tripoli. Rebel leaders acknowledged that pro-Gadhafi troops were better trained and better equipped but said they were slowly organizing.

Eastern-based forces fighting the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said they had made a tactical withdrawal Sunday from Brega after claiming earlier to have seized the town following days of fighting.

They said pro-Gadhafi forces continued to besiege Libya’s third largest city, Misrata, 150 kilometers east of Tripoli, and to shell the two nearby towns of Zintan and Yafran.

Officials said the forces, which are composed largely of volunteers with little or no military training, were at a disadvantage when facing the more heavily armed government troops.

But the commander of an artillery training unit outside Benghazi, Mustafa Sagisli, said the opposition forces were making progress.

"I think we are reaching to a point where we would be a bit organized but it will take a little time to have plans, strategies and not the chaos that happened a couple of weeks ago where everybody was fighting on his own," he said.

Commanders said they no longer were allowing civilian volunteers to go to the front on their own.

Rather, they said, volunteer units would be ordered to the frontlines after being trained to support the formal military units already there.

The announcement followed an air strike by the international coalition enforcing a no-fly zone on pro-Gadhafi forces that killed 13 rebels near Brega.

The head of the National Transition Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, called the incident unintentional. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that is commanding the operation said it would investigate.

The National Transition Council, which was established following the popular uprising in eastern Libya Saturday announced it had created a crisis team to administer the territory.

It named a military chief-of-staff and heads of the central bank and oil company as part of the team.

Officials emphasized they were not establishing a separate government or seeking secession from Libya. They said they were seeking to end the 41-year rule of Colonel Gadhafi and establish a unified country based on individual freedoms and the rule of law.

The rebels proposed a ceasefire Friday but this was rejected by the Tripoli government as containing pre-conditions that did not promote peace.