Libyan rebels regrouped today in key eastern town of Ajdabiya after being scattered by a NATO friendly fire near oil town of Brega as a top U.S. commander warned that the conflict appeared to be turning into a “stalemate“.
General Abdelfatah Yunis, the rebel commander, said in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi that four people - two fighters and two medics - were killed in the attack yesterday by the NATO attack. He said 14 people were wounded and another six people were missing.
Al Jazeera quoted him as saying that it was a friendly fire “carried out in error by NATO”.
However, the deputy commander of NATO’s operations in Libya has said he is “not apologising” for two air strikes which “may have led to the deaths” of a “a number of” opposition fighters outside the town of Brega.
Rear Admiral Russell Harding said in a press briefing that the situation on the ground had been “very fluid” when the strikes were launched.
Groups of Libyan rebels and civilians have fled from the eastern town of Ajdabiya after after rebel tanks were hit by an air strike around midday near the key oil town of Brega, 80-km west of Ajdabiya, the Arab channel said.
However, media reports said the anti-Gaddafi forces have regrouped in Ajdabiya after being scattered by a NATO friendly fire near oil town of Brega.
In Brussels, NATO said it was trying to confirm the reports and that the situation along the coastal highway where most of the fighting is taking place “is unclear and fluid, with mechanised weapons travelling in all directions.” The alliance also warned that it would strike any forces threatening civilians.
U.S. General Carter Ham, the head of Africa Command, said in Washington DC that it was unlikely the rebel forces could push Gaddafi out themselves.
He told a Senate hearing that the chances of the opposition fighting “their way” to replace Gaddafi is “low likelihood.”
His comments underscored growing concern in Washington and European capitals that the conflict is heading towards a stalemate, with Gaddafi firmly in control in Tripoli and badly organised rebels unable to turn the tide even under the cover of NATO-led air power, Al Jazeera said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations called for a halt to hostilities in Misurata, around 215-km east of Tripoli, saying several weeks of “heavy shelling” by Gaddafi’s forces had killed or wounded hundreds.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon made a new “urgent call for an immediate cessation of the indiscriminate use of military force against the civilian population,” his spokesman said.
“Conditions in Misurata are especially grave, with reports of the use of heavy weapons to attack the city, where the population is trapped and unable, as a result of heavy shelling that has continued over several weeks, to receive basic supplies, including clean water, food, and medicines,” he said.
Meanwhile, a ship chartered by the UN World Food Programme arrived in Misurata carrying 600 tonnes of foodstuffs that the WFP said could feed more than 40,000 people for a month.
A rebel spokesman there said a French ship had also arrived carrying medical aid.