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Libyan Rebels Seek Answers After Another Air Strike

Two Libyan rebel fighters after their injured and killed colleagues were evacuated to the hospital of Ajdabiya, Apr 7 2011

Libyan opposition forces fighting the government of Moammar Gadhafi say their forces were attacked by war planes Thursday near the oil town of Brega, 800 kilometers east of Tripoli. Some rebels have blamed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. But an opposition spokesperson says the attack may have been by pro-Gadhafi forces.

A spokesperson for the opposition's National Transitional Council, Imam Bugaighis, said the air strike near the Libyan oil-town of Brega is believed to have been by pro-Gadhafi forces and not by NATO war planes as was reported from the field.

"There is no evidence the strike was by NATO. The jet fighters were at low level and they bombed our Free Libyan forces," Bugaighis said. When asked who was behind the attack he said: "Gadhafi’s regime, Colonel Gadhafi’s regime”"

But the military commander, Abdelfateh Yunis, later said planes struck rebel tanks killing four troops and wounding 14. He said it appeared to be another NATO error and demanded answers. But earlier, medical officials reported five troops have been killed in the attacks.

He says if the attack was by NATO then it was a mistake. But if the attack was by the Gadhafi forces then it was an even bigger mistake since the no-fly zone is meant to protect his troops from the Gadhafi air force.

The no-fly zone was set up by the United Nations primarily to protect civilians in the conflict.

An unidentified NATO official said it would investigate the latest charge.

NATO planes earlier this week struck rebel forces in the same area, killing 13 rebels, in what was acknowledged as an unfortunate accident.

NATO earlier denied responsibility for a Tuesday attack on oil fields near Sarir and Meslah, 600 kilometers south of Benghazi. The alliance blamed the attack on pro-Gadhafi forces.

That attack came as the first shipment of oil by the opposition left from near the eastern port of Tobruk. The oil mostly came from Sarir and Meslah.

Pro-Gadhafi forces have also continued their assault on the town of Ajdabiyah, 140 kilometers west of Benghazi, causing many residents to leave their homes.

Doctors at the local hospital said they had evacuated seriously wounded people to Benghazi but said their hospital continued to operate.

The rebels first seized control of Ajdabiyah in an offensive that took them to the outskirts of the Gadhafi stronghold of Sirte, 500 kilometers west of Tripoli.

But they have since been driven back and the fighting has centered around Brega.

Meanwhile, medical officials with the opposition warned that Libya’s third largest city, Misrata, 200 kilometers east of Tripoli, remains under siege by pro-Gadhafi forces.

More than 200 people have reportedly been killed in Misrata. A Turkish ship ferried 270 wounded this week to Turkey for treatment. And France said it would begin humanitarian aid shipments to Misrata by sea.

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