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Libyan Aircraft Attack Rebel-Held Oil Town

A pro-Moammar Gadhafi anti-aircraft machine gun is burned by Libyan rebels during a battle, in the town of Brega, east of Libya, March 2, 2011

A pro-Moammar Gadhafi anti-aircraft machine gun is burned by Libyan rebels during a battle, in the town of Brega, east of Libya, March 2, 2011

Insurgents opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi continue to hold two strategic towns along the road to eastern Libya, after unsuccessful attempts by pro-Gadhafi forces to retake them. Libyan warplanes launched new air strikes Thursday against the key eastern oil port of Brega, but the son of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi says the bombs were only intended to "frighten" rebels there.

Libyan warplanes struck at the rebel-held oil port of Brega on Thursday, a day after anti-government fighters turned back an assault by forces loyal to the country's longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Witnesses say pro-Gadhafi forces tried to advance behind a barrage of field artillery, but failed to gain any ground. Both sides held on to their positions along the outskirts of the towns of Brega and Ajdabiya. Reports conflicted over which side controlled an oil refinery near Brega.

Al Jazeera TV showed images of people in Brega grieving after the air strike on part of their town. A number of people were reported killed in the raid.

Al Arabiya TV reported that at least one plane bombed a civilian neighborhood in Ajdabiya, a rebel stronghold closer to the rebel-controlled major city of Benghazi.

Witnesses say anti-government forces captured nearly a dozen mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia after clashes around Brega. The mercenaries are reportedly fighting alongside Gadhafi loyalists.

ICC Warning

In The Hague, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, said he is opening an investigation into possible crimes against humanity by Colonel Gadhafi, some of his sons and close associates.

"We've identified some individuals with de facto or formal authority who have authority on the security forces that allegedly committed the crimes,” Ocampo said. “They are Moammar Gadhafi, his inner circle, including some of his sons, who have a de facto authority, but also there are people with some formal authority that should pay attention to the crimes committed by their people, because if they are not preventing, stopping and punishing these crimes, they could be responsible in accordance with the law."

Chavez peace plan

In Cairo, an Arab League spokesman indicated that a peace proposal by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is being considered by Arab foreign ministers. The proposal includes dialogue between Colonel Gadhafi and Libyan insurgents, supported by an Arab League fact-finding mission.

Wednesday, Arab League foreign ministers called for an immediate end to all violence in Libya and condemned alleged crimes against the Libyan people. The ministers blasted possible foreign intervention but said they would consider backing a no-fly zone, in conjunction with the African Union.