Pro-Kadhafi offensives beaten, rebels claim

Reuters/Suhaib Salem

Opposition forces in Libya claim to have fought off an assault by forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi in the western town of Zawiyah, while clashes and unexplained explosions have cost nearly 50 lives in just a few hours.


There was heavy fighting in Zawiya, 50 km west of Tripoli, on Saturday after pro-Kadhafi forces rolled into the city, with Arabic satellite channels reporting that they fired on residential areas.


"They entered Zawiya at six in the morning with heavy forces, hundreds of soldiers with tanks. Our people fought back ...We have won for now and civilians are gathering in the square," rebel leader Youssef Shagan told Reuters news agency.

Many people had been killed, he said, but was unable to give a total. A doctor speaking to Al-Jazeera TV gave a figure of at least 200 casualties.

The rebels claim to have captured two tanks.

Another pro-Kadhafi offensive against the key port of Brega has also been repelled, according to the opposition, with reports of 24 killed.

At least eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded in clashes in the oil town of Raslanuf, the AFP wire service quotes a doctor as saying.

And explosions at an arms dump in Benghazi have killed at least 27.

A rebel spokesperson said that they were unsure of the cause of the blasts and that about 40 people were on the site.

In other developments:

  • An opposition national council, claiming to represent the rebels, met Saturday after appointing former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil as its chairman - the 30-member body met in secret because “this guy [Kadhafi] still assassinates people”, spokesperson Mustafa Gheriani told AFP;
  • Local councils have been set up local councils in rebel-controlled cities and want a transitional government to lead the country until an election is held;
  • The Kadhafi regime claimed Friday that only “a modicum” of force has been used against “law-breakers that have included extremist elements” and appealed to the UN Security Council to suspend sanctions against Kadhafi and his allies;
  • Internet access has been cut throughout the country since Friday evening, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which also says that foreign journalists invited to Tripoli were prevented from leaving their hotels as both pro- and anti-Kadhafi demonstrations took place after Friday Muslim prayers;
  • Media-friendly French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has met members of the opposition council in Beghazi, after arriving in Libya Thursday.

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