Gadhafi Forces Bomb Rebel-Held Town In East Libya

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi retook control of a key oil installation and port on the coast of the rebel-held eastern half of the country on Wednesday and the regime's warplanes bombed an ammunition depot on the outskirts of a nearby town also controlled by the opposition, witnesses said.

The attacks appear to signal Gadhafi's forces are escalating a counteroffensive after government opponents over the past two weeks have seized control of the eastern half of the country and several cities and towns in the western half near the capital Tripoli.

On Tuesday, loyalists pushed back rebels from towns near Tripoli, where Gadhafi appears to be in full control. They also kept up military operations for a second straight day to try wrest control of Zawiya, the city closest to the capital which is in the hands of his opponents. But rebels, backed by mutinous army forces and their weapons, have managed to repel those attacks and hold on to Zawiya so far.

Ahmed Jerksi, manager of the massive oil installation in the eastern town of Brega on the Mediterranean coast, said pro-Gadhafi forces retook control of the facility at dawn without using force. Breqa is about 125 miles from Libya's second-largest city Benghazi, the nerve center of the rebel-held east.

There are about 4,000 oil workers at the facility and there had been at least one checkpoint near the facility which was guarded by a small contingent of armed rebel forces from the area. But there were no reports of clashes between the two sides.

"It's not an attack. We are OK. The government troops came in to secure the whole area. Our concern is to maintain the facility," he told The Associated Press.

Witnesses said that a rebel force was marching on Brega.

Also Wednesday, warplanes bombed an ammunition depot on the outskirts of the rebel-held eastern town of Ajdabiya, a little more than 40 miles northeast of Brega and 85 miles south of Benghazi and also on the Mediterranean coast.

Libyan forces have launched repeated airstrikes during the two-week revolt but all of them have been reported to target facilities that store weapons in areas controlled by the rebellion. However, some air forces have said they bailed out because they were ordered to bomb civilians.

Witnesses told the AP they saw two warplanes bomb the eastern outskirts of Ajdabiya at 10 a.m. local time.

They also said pro-Gadhafi forces were advancing on the town, some 470 miles east of the capital Tripoli.

"I see two jets bombing now," said one witness who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals. Another witness said rebel forces were rushing to the western side of Ajdabiya to meet the advancing pro-Gadhafi force.

"We are ready to repel their attack," said the witness.

This program aired on March 2, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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