Tag Archive: Maggie Michael


More shelling in rebel-held city in western Libyan

Libyan rebel fighters load a truck with ammunition on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, Saturday, April 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110416/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press 1 hr 42 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s forces poured rocket fire after dawn Saturday into Misrata, the only western city still in rebel hands, and weary residents who have endured more than a month of fighting angrily lashed out at NATO for failing to halt the deadly assault.

Five civilians were killed in a 30-minute barrage of shelling that heavily damaged a factory for dairy products and sent up a thick column of black smoke, a doctor said. A human rights group has accused the Gadhafi regime of using cluster bombs in Misrata — munitions that can cause indiscriminate casualties and have been banned by most countries. The Libyan government and military denied the charge.

In eastern Libya, fierce fighting left seven rebels dead, 27 wounded and four missing as the anti-Gadhafi forces sought to push toward the strategic oil town of Brega, according to Mohammed Idris, a hospital supervisor in the nearby city of Ajdabiya. The battle took place on a road halfway between Ajdabiya and Brega.

Frustration was growing among residents in Misrata, where Gadhafi’s troops have intensified their long siege of the city in recent days. The doctor sharply criticized NATO for failing to break the assault with its month-old campaign of airstrikes.

“We have not seen any protection of civilians,” the doctor said. “NATO airstrikes are not enough, and the proof is that there are civilians killed every day here,” he said.

The theme was echoed in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, where spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga told a news conference: “There’s no more room for hesitation or for not standing with determination against what is happening in Misrata and other Libyan cities, because the destruction that Moammar Gadhafi is causing in Libyan cities is great and extensive.”

Rebel fighters in eastern Libya were less critical of NATO. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council, said this week that without the airstrikes, even Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the rebels’ main stronghold, would be in “complete danger.”

The Misrata doctor said Gadhafi’s forces are taking shelter in residential areas that civilians had fled, apparently confident that NATO won’t risk attacking them there.

But the troops have so far been unable to fully occupy the city of 300,000 people, he said, so instead they are targeting sites such as the dairy plant or the port to prevent the arrival of humanitarian aid.

The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared government retribution, said a civilian who was brought to him had been nearly torn in half by a mortar shell and was not expected to live.

NATO officials have said it is difficult to strike Gadhafi’s forces when in an urban area. NATO did say its strikes on Friday destroyed two tanks in the Misrata area.

At a news conference Saturday night in Tripoli, Maj. Gen. Saleh Abdullah Ibrahim denied that the Libyan military is using heavy weapons in Misrata.

When asked whether the NATO airstrikes have had an impact on the Libyan forces, he said he did not know.

“I am a member of the regular armed forces. This type of information is only in the higher ranks of the armed forces,” he said.

Ibrahim confirmed that prisoners had been taken, but would not say how many.

Rebels in Misrata and the New York-based group Human Rights Watch have alleged that Gadhafi’s forces have been using cluster bombs, which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. Most of the world’s nations have banned the use of the munitions.

Human Rights Watch said its researchers inspected remnants of the weapons found in a Misrata neighborhood and interviewed witnesses.

Ibrahim said the accusations were “unfounded,” adding that Libya did not have “these kinds of weapons in our depot, and no single Libyan has been trained on this.”

“We are calling for those who show these kinds of weapons to give us the material evidence,” he said.

A boat chartered by Doctors Without Borders and carrying 95 Libyans from Misrata — 65 of them injured — arrived Saturday at the Tunisian port of Zarzis, according to the official TAP news agency. Nine people who were critically or seriously injured were taken to a hospital in the town of Sfax.

A lack of medicine, food and water for the 6,000-10,000 people in migrant workers’ camps around Misrata has led to a “catastrophic” situation that is deteriorating daily, said Dr. Helmi Makkaoui, a Tunisian coordinator for the humanitarian aid group.

Rebels in eastern Libya held their positions for four days around the city of Ajdabiya, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the east, allowing NATO airstrikes to weaken government forces, said Col. Hamid Hassy.

On Friday, the fighters pushed in to reach Brega’s university campus, just outside the town’s oil port, Hassy said. He added that if the rebels retake Brega, they will bring in engineers to repair any damage to the refinery and oil facilities there.

Brega has already changed hands half a dozen times since fighting began in early March. Explosions that appeared to be from new airstrikes could still be heard Saturday in the area.

Despite the strikes, the rebels ran into staunch resistance Saturday. Three of the seven rebels killed were in a car that was struck by either a rocket or artillery shell near a gas station on the road about 24 miles (40 kilometers) from either city, said fighter Ahmed Bakir.

Ambulances streamed to an Ajdabiya hospital, where doctors treated fighters with severe burns or shrapnel wounds. Bloodstained bandages littered the area outside the hospital and workers hosed down a bloody stretcher.

The latest fighting in Brega pushed the rebels back to the town’s outskirts, said Suleiman Mohammed Suleiman, one of the opposition fighters who was shot in the leg while firing a heavy machine gun from the back of a pickup truck outside Brega.

Suleiman said the rebels could see Brega but were not yet inside.

The NATO-led air campaign has kept rebels from being defeated on the battlefield by the better trained and equipped government forces, but it still has not been enough to completely turn the tide. The rebels have been unable to reach Gadhafi’s heavily defended hometown of Sirte, the gateway to the regime-controlled western half of the country.

Previous rebel advances through Brega and its companion oil center of Ras Lanouf, another 60 miles (100 kilometers) farther on, have ultimately foundered as rebels overextended their supply lines and were routed by the heavier firepower and more sophisticated tactics of the government forces.

In contrast those previous charges and retreats in the past six weeks, the rebels appear to be trying a more gradual advance that might actually result in them holding territory.

At a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, the United States and its allies put up a united front on the goals of the alliance’s stalemated military mission in Libya, yet failed to resolve behind-the-scenes squabbling over how to achieve them.

NATO members agreed on paper that Gadhafi had to go to end the crisis, they also made clear that they would not be the ones to oust him.

___

Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Tripoli, Libya; Ben Hubbard in Benghazi, Libya; and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report from Cairo.

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Gadhafi defiant despite NATO airstrikes in Tripoli

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110414/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

In this image made from TV , Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Thursday April 14 2011. Libyan TV broadcast footage on Thursday showi

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 24 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi rolled defiantly through the streets of Tripoli, pumping his fists as he poked through the sun roof of an SUV on Thursday — the same day that NATO airstrikes shook the city. The alliance’s foreign ministers, while united in their aim to pressure the Libyan leader to go, argued at a meeting over whether to step up military operations that have so far failed to rout him.

Gadhafi gave no sign that he’s willing to relent, despite two months of civil war and mounting international pressure for him to move aside. Instead, his loyalists pounded rebel positions in the besieged western city of Misrata with dozens of rockets for several hours, killing at least 13 people.

The main target of the assault was Misrata’s port, the only lifeline for rebels who have been trying to defend positions in the city, Libya’s third-largest, against Gadhafi’s forces.

In the capital of Tripoli, several large explosions were heard and a column of black smoke rose from the southeastern part of the city, followed by the sound of anti-aircraft guns, a resident said.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi — dressed in a black Western blazer, black crew neck T-shirt, sunglasses and a hat — standing through the open sun roof of a sport utility vehicle on a fist-pumping, rapid ride through Tripoli with dozens of supporters chasing behind him. Libyan TV said the trip came on the same day that NATO airstrikes hit military and civilian areas in the capital.

The TV report said there were civilian casualties from the attacks. The report could not be confirmed.

The fighting in Libya began in mid-February when large anti-government protests escalated into a civil war. Rebels hold much of eastern Libya, while Gadhafi controls the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. Three weeks of international airstrikes haven’t routed Gadhafi’s forces.

Gadhafi’s troops unleashed three hours of heavy shelling on the port city of Misrata, which is partly held by rebels. The port is Misrata’s only lifeline, and government forces fired tank shells and dozens of Grad missiles , according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

“They want to flatten the area to deploy the troops on foot and invade the city,” said one of the witnesses, a doctor whose first name was Ayman. He added that a ship sent by Doctors Without Borders to evacuate 165 critically injured people to Tunisia had been scheduled to arrive Thursday morning at Misrata’s port, and he believed the government had shelled the port to interfere with the humanitarian aid.

Another doctor in Misrata, who gave his name only as Khaled for fear of retribution, said some of those killed were inside their houses asleep at the time of the shelling. Among the dead were two men aged 75 and 80.

Gadhafi forces have control of a highway on the outskirts of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired a Cairo meeting of regional and international organizations on Libya and set three targets: reaching and implementing a cease-fire, delivering humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue on Libya’s future.

“Shelling your own people is not acceptable,” he said at a meeting at Arab League headquarters, referring to actions by Gadhafi’s forces. “This is a violation of human rights.”

At a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, the United States and its allies put up a united front on the goals of the alliance’s stalemated military mission in Libya but failed to resolve behind-the-scenes squabbling over how to achieve them.

NATO members agreed on paper with President Barack Obama that Gadhafi had to go to end the crisis, they also made clear that they would not be the ones to oust him. Although several NATO members want the alliance to commit more planes to expand the air campaign, the first day of meetings closed without any specific commitments for more aircraft.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed for unity, saying Gadhafi was taunting the alliance by continuing to strike cities held by rebels seeking his overthrow.

“As our mission continues, maintaining our resolve and unity only grows more important,” Clinton said. “Gadhafi is testing our determination.”

The United States is resisting suggestions that it resume a large combat role to break a deadlock between rebels and better-armed forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Clinton and other top diplomats pointedly said their U.N. mandate for an air campaign does not extend to Gadhafi’s exit by force.

The allies again resolved to enforce a U.N. arms embargo, protect civilians acting to push Gadhafi forces out of cities they have entered, and get in humanitarian aid.

But differences over the scope of the military operation persisted, with Britain and France insisting on more action, particularly from sophisticated U.S. surveillance and weapons systems, and U.S officials maintaining that the alliance already has the tools to get the job done.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris “had wanted (NATO) to intensify its strikes, and we received the assurance that that would be the case.”

Clinton did not say if the U.S. would send more ground attack craft, but she said Washington would continue to support the NATO mission until its goals were met.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said the opposition in Benghazi is encouraged by the diplomatic talks but worried that it won’t translate in to concrete action fast enough to prevent more civilian deaths.

“It will be interesting to see if there is any movement on the ground or just a lot of talk and no action,” he said. “Is there something else on the diplomatic ground that they know that we don’t to put more pressure on Gadhafi? The guy is still shelling and killing, and it makes no difference to him.”

He mentioned specifically the shelling of Misrata and said the international community’s actions will largely determine how long the conflict lasts.

“They wrote off Gadhafi’s regime. The question is how fast their plan is going to take care of him. We know arming ourselves will lead to the eventual toppling of the regime. But are we willing to wait two years or three years or a year and a half? How many victims do we have to accept?”

Rebel leaders have said they would only consider a truce if it Gadhafi is removed from power first.

At the Cairo meeting of top diplomats, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Gadhafi “must leave immediately” and that Libyans should be given a chance to choose a new leader.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa told reporters after the meeting that the situation in Libya is “very grave.”

Brief clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Gadhafi demonstrators outside the meeting. The two camps hurled rocks at each other, with at least one protester seen with blooded face after being hit in the head with a stone. The anti-Gadhafi protesters outnumbered the pro-Gadhafi demonstrators, chased them and forced them to flee.

NATO said it had conducted 153 sorties in the last 24 hours, striking 13 bunkers, one tank and one armored personnel carrier in the Tripoli area and three multiple rocket launchers in the Brega area.

Journalists were taken to Tripoli’s Fateh University where they were shown damage they were told was the result of an airstrike earlier in the day. The blast shattered windows of several buildings, including two student cafeterias, and glass shards were scattered across the floor. Tiles of false ceilings had been knocked out in several lecture halls.

Government minders traveling with the journalists said the strike had hit a military target nearby and white smoke was seen rising from a group of trees several hundred yards from the campus. The minders would not elaborate or allow anyone to approach the targeted area. However, one journalist who had snatched a glimpse from a rooftop said she had seen an anti-aircraft battery at the site. Photographs taken later showed a large military truck in the area.

A Tripoli resident said many people were fasting in preparation for mass anti-Gadhafi protests Friday, the 25th anniversary of the 1986 U.S. raid on Tripoli.

Life in Libya “is becoming harsh,” with prices skyrocketing, gasoline scarce and long lines in front of bakeries, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join Friday’s protests. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

At the western edge of Ajdabiya, the main gateway town into the opposition-held east, two wounded rebel fighters were brought through, and the rebel forces retaliated by firing rockets in the direction of Brega.

In western Libya, rebels attacked a small military base about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Nalut and chased away 40 soldiers who had been trying to stop aid from Tunisia and harassing people trying to flee into that country. In apparent retaliation, Libyan government forces shelled the town of Tikut.

Rebel chief of Staff Abdel-Fatah Younes said the opposition fighters have received new anti-tank weapons from Qatar and that experts from that country are training the forces to use them.

Also Thursday, Libyan TV reported Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, mediated the release of Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera correspondent Amar al-Hamdan, who was en route to the Libya-Tunisian border.

___

Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo, Sebastian Abbot in Ajdabiya, Libya; Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tunis, Tunisia; and Geir Moulson and Matthew Lee in Berlin contributed reporting.

Egypt’s Mubarak detained for investigation

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110413/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press 1 hr 42 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak was put under detention in his hospital room Wednesday for investigation on accusations of corruption, abuse of power and killings of protesters in a dramatic step Wednesday that brought celebrations from the movement that drove him from office.

Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were also detained for questioning and taken to Cairo’s Torah prison where a string of former top regime figures — including the former prime minister, head of the ruling party and Mubarak’s chief of staff — are already languishing, facing similar investigations on corruption.

The move reflected the enormous pressure from the public on the ruling military, which was handed power when Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11. On Friday tens of thousands protested in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak and his family be put on trial, and many in the crowds accused the military of protecting the former president.

The detention came hours after the 82-year-old Mubarak was hospitalized Tuesday evening with heart problems in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where he and his family have been living since his fall from power.

Early Wednesday, the public prosecutor announced Mubarak was ordered put under detention for 15 days for investigation. He was to be flown later in the day to a military hospital outside Cairo, where he would remain in detention, a security official in Sharm el-Sheikh said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Protesters had pushed hard for Mubarak’s prosecution, demanding what they called a clear signal that the corruption that pervaded his nearly 30-year rule would be definitively broken. Public outrage was widespread over allegations that large fortunes were skimmed off by top regime officials through shady deals over the years.

Beyond the anger has been the fear that Mubarak cronies are maneuvering to regain power as the country tries to work out democratic rule — and that the ruling military was not taking action to prevent them, or was even abetting them.

“I was so happy in the morning when I heard the news,” said Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 group, one of the movements that led the unprecedented 18-day protest movement against Mubarak.

“All people are very happy because this step reassured them after a period of doubts and stagnation,” referring to doubts over the military’s intentions, he told The Associated Press. Worries over the military were intensified by a fierce pre-dawn raid on protesters in Tahrir on Saturday that killed at least one person.

Still, he said, Egypt faces a long road to ensure the transition period leads to real democracy. “Trying Mubarak and his regime is very important but what is super important is the political future of Egypt and what kind of political system we want to have,” he said.

The prosecutor’s announcement gave a momentary easing of tensions between the military and protesters. Following the prosecutor’s announcement, the coalition of youth groups that have organized the protests said it is canceling a planned new mass demonstration in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand Mubarak’s prosecution.

But the coalition underlined that there are still demands left unfulfilled — including the dissolving of the former ruling party and the sacking of Mubarak-appointed governors as well as university deans and local city councils, both seen as levers of his regime.

Activist Amr Bassiouny said in a Tweet that the detention was not the protesters’ primary goal but “free speech, free assembly, free press — no torture, real democracy, end of lies.”

Since Mubarak’s fall, activists have complained that the Armed Forces Supreme Council, the body of top generals that now rules Egypt, has been dictating the post-Mubarak transition without consultation. Relations have rapidly soured over past week, amid reports of abuses by the military that reminded some of Mubarak’s rule — including torture of detained protesters and the imprisoning of an activist for criticizing the army

Protesters have criticized the army for being too close to the old regime and not swiftly bringing Mubarak to trial while hundreds of protesters remain in military detention, some convicted in swift trials before military courts.

In its announcement, posted on the social networking site Facebook, the public prosecutor said Mubarak was under investigation into allegations of assaults, killings and injury of protesters, corruption, squandering of public funds, and the abuse of authority for personal gain.

Hundreds are estimated to have been killed during the protests as police opened fire and cracked down on the crowds. Officials put the number of protesters killed during the uprising at 365, but human rights activists and others have said the figure is much higher. According to a count by the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters, a group that provides medical and legal assistance to the demonstrators, 685 people died as of March 7.

On Sunday, Mubarak defended himself in a prerecorded message saying he had not abused his authority, and investigators were welcome to check over his assets.

It was his first address to the people in the two months since his ouster. He has kept a low profile since he was ousted, living on his compound in Sharm el-Sheikh. He and his family were banned from traveling and their assets frozen.

Shortly after, the prosecutor general issued a summons for Mubarak to appear for questioning.

Soon after the hospitalization Tuesday night and in a sign that his ailment might not be very serious, Justice Minister Mohammed el-Guindi said Mubarak was then questioned in his suite for his role in the violence against protesters. The ministry statement on Facebook said Mubarak’s lawyers and a medical team were present during the interrogation. Mubarak has a history of minor ailments and underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany in March last year.

While the ex-president was taken to the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been living since being removed from power, his sons were taken for questioning to the nearby courthouse.

An angry crowd of 2,000 people had gathered outside the hospital late Tuesday, demanding the sons’ arrest. Then, in the early hours Wednesday, head of provincial security in the South Sinai told the crowd that Gamal and Alaa would be detained.

“Brothers, whatever you wanted, you have got … 15 days,” said Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Khatib, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

As a police van with drawn curtains took away the brothers, the crowd pelted it with water bottles, stones and their flip-flops, as a sign of contempt.

Over the past decade, Gamal had risen to the top ranks of the ruling party and was widely seen as Mubarak’s designated succession. Anger over that prospect helped galvanize Egypt’s protest movement. Gamal brought into government and the ruling party a number of top businessmen who led an economic liberalization program that brought in billions in foreign investment but has also widened the gap between rich and poor. Several of those businessman-politicians now face trial or investigation for allegedly using their positions to amassing fortunes. His brother Alaa is a prominent businessman.

Egyptian stock market’s posted moderate gains Wednesday with investors buoyed by news that Mubarak and his sons have been detained. The market had been relatively stable in the days after its reopening late last month, following a nearly two-month closure linked to the anti-Mubarak uprising.

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Associated Press writers Paul Schemm and Maggie Michael in Cairo, and Yasser Imam and Ashraf Sweilam in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, contributed to this report.

Libyan opposition sets conditions for cease-fire

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110401/ap_on_bi_ge/af_libya

By BEN HUBBARD and RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Ben Hubbard And Ryan Lucas, Associated Press 15 mins ago

BENGHAZI, Libya – Libya’s rebels will agree to a cease-fire if Moammar Gadhafi pulls his military forces out of cities and allows peaceful protests against his regime, an opposition leader said Friday as rebels showed signs that their front-line organization is improving.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the opposition’s interim governing council based in Benghazi, spoke during a joint press conference with U.N. envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib. After meeting government officials in Thursday, Al-Khatib was visiting the rebels’ de facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a political solution to the crisis embroiling the North African nation.

Abdul-Jalil said the rebels’ condition for a cease-fire is “that the Gadhafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom.”

The U.N. resolution that authorized international airstrikes against Libya called for Gadhafi and the rebels to end hostilities. Gadhafi announced a cease-fire immediately but has shown no sign of heeding it. His forces continue to attack rebels in the east, where the opposition in strongest, and have besieged the only major rebel-held city in the west, Misrata.

The city has been shelled by tanks and artillery for days, said a doctor in a Misrata hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals. Many people have been killed, including eight since Thursday, he said. He said Gadhafi brigades control the port and a main street, but rebels control the heart of the city.

Abdul-Jalil said the regime must withdraw its forces and lift all sieges.

He stressed the ultimate goal was Gadhafi’s ouster.

“Our aim is to liberate and have sovereignty over all of Libya with its capital in Tripoli,” he said.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The U.N. said Al-Khatib arrived Thursday in Tripoli.

Forces loyal to Libya’s leader of nearly 42 years spent much of this week pushing the rebels back about 100 miles (160 kilometers) along the coast. On Friday, the opposition showed signs of gaining discipline on what has often been a disorganized battlefield.

Fighters said fresh forces were coming in, mostly ex-military, but also volunteers with not quite a month of training. The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organized units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.

The untrained masses who have rushed in and out of the fight for weeks with no apparent organization were barred from the front line. They stayed to the rear, to hold the line temporarily in case Gadhafi’s forces attempt to flank the rebels.

“The problem with the young untrained guys is they’ll weaken us at the front, so we’re trying to use them as a backup force,” said Mohammed Majah, 33, a former sergeant. “They have great enthusiasm, but that’s not enough now.”

Majah said the only people at the front now are former soldiers, “experienced guys who have been in reserves, and about 20 percent are young revolutionaries who have been in training and are in organized units.”

The rebels also had mortars Friday, weapons they previously appeared to have lacked, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers — more artillery than usual.

The rebels’ losses this week, and others before airstrikes began March 19, underlined that their equipment, training and organization were far inferior to those of Gadhafi’s forces. The recent changes appear to be an attempt to correct, or at least ease, the imbalance.

It was not immediately clear where the front line was on Friday. On Thursday, the opposition had moved into Brega, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Ajdabiya, before Gadhafi’s forces pushed them out.

Gadhafi’s greatest losses this week were not military but political. Two members of his inner circle, including his foreign minister, abandoned him Wednesday and Thursday, setting off speculation about other officials who may be next. The defections could sway people who have stuck with Gadhafi despite the uprising that began Feb. 15 and the international airstrikes aimed at keeping the autocrat from attacking his own people.

Libyan state TV aired a phone interview with intelligence chief Bouzeid Dorda to knock down rumors that he also left Gadhafi.

“I am in Libya and will remain here steadfast in the same camp of the revolution despite everything,” Dorda said. “I never thought to cross the borders or violate commitment to the people, the revolution and the leader.”

Gadhafi struck a defiant stance in a statement Thursday, saying he’s not the one who should go — it’s the Western leaders who attacking his military with airstrikes who should resign immediately. Gadhafi’s message was undercut by its delivery — a scroll across the bottom of state TV as he remained out of sight.

The White House said the strongman’s inner circle was clearly crumbling with the loss of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who flew from Tunisia to England on Wednesday. Koussa is privy to all the inner workings of the regime, so his departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.

Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister and U.N. General Assembly president, announced his departure on several opposition websites the next day, saying “It is our nation’s right to live in freedom and democracy and enjoy a good life.”

Gadhafi accused the leaders of the countries attacking his forces of being “affected by power madness.”

“The solution for this problem is that they resign immediately and their peoples find alternatives to them,” the Libya state news agency quoted him as saying.

___

Lucas reported from Ajdabiya, Libya. Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Tripoli and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110322/ap_on_re_eu/libya_us_jet

By DAVID RISING, Associated Press David Rising, Associated Press 42 mins ago

BERLIN – A U.S. fighter jet crashed in Libya after an apparent equipment malfunction but both crewmembers were able to eject and were back in American hands with only minor injuries, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The F-15E Strike Eagle jet was conducting a mission Monday night against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses when it crashed at 2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT), said Lt. Cmdr. Karin Burzynski, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command.

A spokesman for the Libyan opposition, Mohammed Ali, said the U.S. plane went down about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published a series of photographs it said was the wreckage of the plane, showing people milling around the burned-out aircraft in a Libyan field.

One of the jet’s airmen landed in a field of sheep after ejecting from the plane, then raised his hands and called out “OK, OK” to a crowd who had gathered, the Telegraph cited witness Younis Amruni, 27, as saying.

“I hugged him and said: ‘Don’t be scared, we are your friends,'” Amruni told the newspaper, adding that people then lined up to shake the airman’s hand.

“We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies,” he said. “We gave him juice and then the revolutionary military people took him away.”

A Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the main pilot, while the second crew member, a weapon systems officer who is also a pilot, was recovered by rebel forces and is now in American hands, a U.S. official said in Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Amruni said the Osprey fired shots to keep locals away, then swooped in and rescued the second crew member.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The two were separated after ejecting from the crippled jet at high altitude and drifting down to different locations, Africa Command spokesman Vince Crawley said, adding they sustained minor injuries.

The aircraft, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Italy’s Aviano Air Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

The Air Force has said only that B-2, F-15 and F-16 fighters are participating in operations over Libya. The U.S. involvement in Libya is being run by Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

The air campaign by U.S. and European militaries that began Saturday has rearranged the map in Libya and rescued rebels from what had appeared to be imminent defeat.

On Monday night, Libyan state TV said a new round of strikes had begun in the capital, Tripoli, marking the third night of bombardment.

But while the airstrikes can stop Gadhafi’s troops from attacking rebel cities — in line with the U.N. mandate to protect civilians — the United States, at least, has appeared deeply reluctant to go beyond that toward actively helping the rebel cause to oust the Libyan leader.

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Pauline Jelinek in Washington, Cassandra Vinograd in London and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

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