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Gadhafi Forces Launch Airstrikes on Eastern Town

Smoke rises following an air strike by Libyan warplanes near a checkpoint close to the anti-Gadhafi rebels' checkpoint in the oil town of Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 7, 2011

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have carried out multiple airstrikes on targets outside a rebel-held eastern town, and have engaged in deadly ground battles with opposition fighters throughout the war-torn North African nation.

Libyan warplanes struck positions around the oil port of Ras Lanuf Monday. One of the strikes wounded at least two people in a car. A day earlier, anti-Gadhafi fighters retreated to the coastal city from the nearby town of Bin Jawwad, following a heavy government counter-offensive aimed at stopping the rebel drive toward the capital, Tripoli.

Medics say the battle killed at least seven and wounded more than 50. The government advance on Ras Lanuf forced residents to flee and rebels to hide weapons in the desert.

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa Monday denounced what he said are U.S., French and British contacts with the eastern-based opposition, saying it is "clear there is a conspiracy to divide Libya."

Also Monday, in an interview with the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Arabiya, one of Mr. Gadhafi's sons said Libya would descend into civil war if his father stepped down. Saadi Gadhafi warned the country would turn into a new Somalia, with Libya's tribes fighting each other.

Watch raw video of the events in Libya

Mr. Gadhafi's forces attacked rebels holding the western towns of Misrata and Zawiya on Sunday. A doctor in Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, says at least 18 people were killed in that fighting. A United Nations aid official in Geneva said humanitarian agencies need urgent access to Misrata to help people who are injured and dying.

The Libyan leader remains in control of Tripoli, his main power base in the country's west, as well as his hometown of Sirte, 500 kilometers east of the capital. He has vowed a fight to the death against opposition fighters who last month launched an uprising against his 42-year rule.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Mideast Unrest 2011 on Dipity.

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