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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8, 2011: Gaddafi declares war on rebel fighters

Today will be a Tuesday long remembered in Libya, if not around the world, as the date the Libyan struggle went from ugly to hideous, as the crashing Libyan leader bulldozes and bombs away rebel positions. According to Debka.com:

Not a single Arab ruler or government is willing to dip a toe into the Libyan cauldron. In the last few hours, Egypt's military rulers have notified Washington that they have no intention of helping the Libyan opposition, even by sending arms.

Qaddafi's commanders turned the tide of battle in their favor by the following tactic: At the start of the week, they concentrated around the key town of Sirte (Sidra) two armored battalions of T-72 tanks, three battalions of special forces, beefed up by an extra 3,000 tribal fighters flown in from the Sahara, and a fleet of dozens of helicopter gunships.

Our sources report that Qaddafi paid out many millions of petrodollars to the heads of the Saharan tribal federation to hire fighting manpower form the various tribes.

This force was split in two: One column advanced south along the Sidra Gulf coast towards the refinery town of Ras Lanuf and the second struck southeast toward the big oil town of Brega and Ajdabia. Both rolled forward behind a wall of fire of BM-21 Katyusha rockets and helicopters firing missiles and heavy machine guns as T-72 tanks mowed down everything in their path.

Against the only rebel position west of Tripoli in the town of Zawiya, dozens of tanks crushed building after building before pulling out and then returning.

Qaddafi forces pound rebel positions, online article on Debka.com

And from the Los Angeles Times, just 20 minutes ago:

Libyan Major General Khalid Shahmah joins rebel forces

By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Tripoli, Libya A Libyan general has switched sides in one of two fiercely contested western cities that remain strongholds of the opposition to Moammar Kadafi, state television said Tuesday.

Fierce fighting continued in the city of Zawiya, which has emerged as one of two key battlegrounds in the area around the capital, Tripoli. Although Kadafi controls the capital, his opponents have seized much of the east of the country and are working on formation of a competing government.

In an "urgent" onscreen caption, state-controlled television reported that Maj. Gen. Khalid Shahmah joined the rebels in Zawiya. It did not further identify the general or clarify his role in the military.

Droves of officials have defected from Kadafi's regime. On Tuesday, Musa Kuni, former consul general to the nearby country of Mali, appealed to Libyans of ethnic Tuareg descent like him to join the opposition.

Opposition leaders accuse the government of recruiting mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to fight anti-Kadafi forces. The rebel spokesman in Misurata, the other battleground city in western Libya, said his side had captured several fighters from Mali and Chad.

Full article on fighting in Libya on LATimes.com

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