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Updated: April 9, 2011 18:59 IST

Bombardment blunts Libyan rebel advance

AP
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A Serbian Radical Party supporter shows a poster of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi reading:'' Meeting of support for Libyan people and their leader Muammar Qaddafi'', during a rally against bombing of Libya, in Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday. Serb support for the Libyan leader grows amid an escalating war in the country that reminds them of their own suffering under NATO bombs. Photo: AP
A Serbian Radical Party supporter shows a poster of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi reading:'' Meeting of support for Libyan people and their leader Muammar Qaddafi'', during a rally against bombing of Libya, in Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday. Serb support for the Libyan leader grows amid an escalating war in the country that reminds them of their own suffering under NATO bombs. Photo: AP

The government attacks on Ajdabiya quickly changed the fortunes of rebels who had earlier sent units deeper towards the strategic oil port of Brega, 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Ajdabiya, and captured two soldiers loyal to Muammar Qadhafi.

Government forces shelled the rebels’ main front—line outpost of Libya’s rebels on Saturday, forcing fighters to pull back and open fire with their own heavy weapons to try to hold the town.

The government attacks on Ajdabiya quickly changed the fortunes of rebels who had earlier sent units deeper towards the strategic oil port of Brega, 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Ajdabiya, and captured two soldiers loyal to Muammar Qadhafi.

It’s unclear whether government troops would make a push of their own into the eastern town of Ajdabiya and risk coming under NATO airstrikes. But taking control of the town would open the way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and the eastern port of Tobruk near the Egyptian border.

Most rebel forces pulled back to Ajdabiya when the shelling began, but later appeared to attempt a counteroffensive with heavy machine guns and rockets. Black smoke rose from parts of the town.

Earlier, rebels had pushed deeper toward Brega, a key prize in the back—and—forth battles with government forces.

Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega’s Bright Star University, outside the government—controlled oil facilities, but it marks a noticeable advance by rebels struggling to push back Qadhafi’s forces.

The eastern Libyan port has changed hands more than five times since the uprising against Col. Qadhafi’s rule began in February. The port and oil storage facilities are strategic for both sides.

Rebels have regrouped on the front lines after a mass retreat on Thursday when NATO airstrikes accidentally hit a rebel armoured column.

In western Libya, the Red Cross said a relief ship reached the only rebel—held city, Misrata, which was the scene of heavy battles on Friday.

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