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Gadhafi Forces Pound Rebel Positions in Ajdabiya, Continue Siege of Misrata

Libyan rebel fighters load a truck with ammunition on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, Saturday, April 16, 2011.
Libyan rebel fighters load a truck with ammunition on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, Saturday, April 16, 2011.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi have been shelling rebel positions in and around the eastern town of Ajdabiya, reportedly advancing to the outskirts of the city.  Gadhafi forces also continue to pound the besieged port city of Misrata, inflicting considerable damage.  

Witnesses say Gadhafi forces fired long-range rockets into the Libyan town of Ajdabiya, causing many rebels to flee their positions. Al-Jazeera TV reported that the ongoing rocket assaults allowed Gadhafi’s men to advance towards the outskirts of the town.

Reuters news agency indicated that scores of rebel vehicles were fleeing Ajdabiya, along with large numbers of civilians, towards the main rebel-held city of Benghazi.

The sustained rocket attacks appear to have caused a reverse of momentum after rebel forces tried to move Saturday on the Gadhafi-held town of Brega.  An opposition said Gadhafi’s men were hiding in a chemical factory in Brega, which NATO planes were reluctant to bomb.

Saturday, rebel military commander and former Gadhafi interior minister Abdel Fattah Younes told al-Arabiya television his men were closing in on Brega and were hoping to take the town within 24 hours.

In the besieged western port city of Misrata, witnesses say Gadhafi loyalists continued to pound the city with mortar shells, killing 17 people on Sunday.  The city has been without water and electricity for days and thousands of people have abandoned their houses for safer areas around the port.

Libyan government TV showed U.N. special representative and former Jordanian foreign minister Abdel Ilah Khatib meeting in Tripoli with loyalist Prime Minister Bagdadi Mahmoudy.  The TV report said the men "discussed the ongoing foreign aggression against Libya."

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim also told a conference in Tripoli that the Libyan government would respond to recent accusations of war-crimes by allowing independent outside groups to visit Libya and investigate.

He says Libya will allow international non-governmental organizations to visit and see for themselves that no crimes against humanity have been committed, with the exception of those committed by the rebels who have raised arms against the legal government.  He also accuses NATO of committing war-crimes by bombing civilian targets.

Foreign journalists who have visited the Libyan capital in recent weeks complain they have been unable to investigate important stories in crucial locations without a government escort.

Human Rights Watch accused Gadhafi loyalists of using cluster-bomb munitions Saturday in the city of Misrata.  Many countries have banned the use of the weapons, which can wreak havoc against civilian populations.  A rebel spokesman told the Reuters news agency Colonel Gadhafi’s forces fired at least 100 of the explosives into an industrial area of Misrata.

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