Rebels said they suffered heavy losses in eastern Libya after being “tricked” by Moamer Khadafi’s forces, as the US pressed Africa to take tougher action against the strongman’s regime. The rebels meanwhile gained another diplomatic boost when Germany recognised their National Transitional Council (NTC) as the “legitimate representative” of the Libyan people.
On the battlefield however, the insurgents came under attack on numerous fronts by Gaddafi loyalists amid a surge of fighting across the country after weeks of stalemate.
On the eastern frontline between the rebel-held transport hub Ajdabiya and the oil town of Brega, which is in the hands of Gaddafi’s soldiers, a firefight on Monday left 21 rebel combatants dead, their commander told AFP. “Our men were tricked. Gaddafi’s soldiers pretended to surrender, coming with a white flag, and then they fired on us,” Mussa al-Mograbi said. About 20 rebels were wounded and transferred to hospital in Ajdabiya, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Benghazi, the de facto capital of rebels who have been fighting to overthrow Gaddafi since mid-February, he said.
Mograbi added that four of his men were killed and 30 wounded in a skirmish the previous day. Battles were also being fought in the western town of Zintan, the Berber mountains southwest of Tripoli, in nearby Yafran, and at Dafnia near Misrata, Libya’s third city, rebel sources told AFP.
An AFP correspondent said Gaddafi’s forces pounded the outskirts of Zintan on Sunday, killing at least seven rebels and wounding 49. In Addis Ababa, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday pressed all African states to demand Gaddafi step down and take tougher action against his regime.
Seeking to wrest support from a leader who has helped them financially, Clinton also urged African countries to expel Gaddafi’s diplomats and increase their support for the opposition, saying their words and actions can help bring peace to Libya. Senegal and Gambia are the only African states to have recognised the NTC as the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.