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Top News

Qadhafi counter-attack repulsed, Tripoli bombed

TRIPOLI : Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Qadhafi launched a counter-offensive on rebels in the southwest on Sunday
Published July 24, 2011

qadhafiTRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Qadhafi launched a counter-offensive on rebels in the southwest on Sunday but were repulsed, after NATO warplanes blitzed military targets in the capital.

An AFP correspondent said rebels repelled an attack aimed at recapturing the desert hamlet of Gualish on the road to Tripoli which loyalist forces lost to the insurgents in fierce fighting earlier this month.

Rebels in Gualish said they had prevented regime forces from getting within at least a kilometre (less than a mile) of the hamlet, and that they had been reinforced from Zintan, their main base in western Libya.

An AFP correspondent reported three hours of intense fighting as Qadhafi's forces attacked Gualish and shelled the region before pulling back under rebel rocket fire as NATO warplanes flew overhead.

At least two people were wounded, the correspondent said.

In the capital itself, Qadhafi's compound again came under NATO air attack.

"In Tripoli there were two command and control nodes, two surface-to-air missile launchers and one anti-aircraft gun (hit)," a NATO official said from the mission's headquarters in Naples, Italy.

An AFP reporter reported two blasts at 00:50 am (2250 GMT) in the area housing Qadhafi's residence, followed by more explosions in the eastern and southeastern suburbs.

Qadhafi's complex was also targeted by NATO warplanes on Saturday, when the alliance confirmed seven strikes and said they hit a military command node.

A NATO official in Brussels told AFP Saturday's strikes targeted the walls of the complex, hitting "guard towers because they were securing the command and control centre."

Qadhafi said in an audio message broadcast on state television late Saturday that the unrest in Libya since a popular uprising erupted in mid-February was a "colonial plot." He did not elaborate.

He also denied accusations by international rights groups of a brutal suppression of dissent and allegations that his regime had killed thousands of protesters.

"They lie to you and say, 'Libya kills its people with bullets, that is why we have come to protect civilians'," Qadhafi said of the UN-mandated NATO air campaign aimed at protecting civilians in Libya.

"Only eight people have been killed and an inquiry is under way to determine who killed them. There are no protests and no gunfire. Show us where the thousands of people are buried," Qadhafi said.

Other targets attacked by NATO-led warplanes on Saturday included a military storage facility, a multiple rocket-launcher and a command and control node in the vicinity of the oil town of Brega in the east, the alliance said.

The latest NATO strikes came after rebel forces said they had infiltrated the capital and attacked a regime command post where a son of the strongman was among officials targeted.

The rebels said the assault "seriously injured" a high-ranking member of Qadhafi's security forces.

On Thursday, "there was an attack on an operations centre of top regime officials, including Seif al-Islam Qadhafi," National Transitional Council (NTC) vice president Ali Essawy said after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Rome.

He said one high-ranking security official was "seriously injured."

Frattini said the "rocket attack against an operations centre" probably in a Tripoli hotel was aimed at "top officials... including Qadhafi's son Seif, and the head of the secret service, Abdullah al-Senussi."

Libyan officials denied the attack had occurred and denounced as "criminal and unjustified" what they said were NATO raids that killed six guards at a pipeline factory south of an oil plant in Brega.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters rebel forces were losing in the east and to the southwest, and were trying "to boost their morale with lies and small victories."

The rebels have said 16 of their men were killed in two days of fighting for Zliten, the last coastal city between insurgent-held Misrata and the capital.

The insurgents have been trying for weeks to take Zliten, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli and 40 kilometres west of Misrata.

The rebels say they have chased the bulk of Qadhafi's forces from Brega in the east and are poised to advance toward the capital from Misrata and their other western enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli.

The Nafusa campaign is focused on Asabah, gateway to the garrison town of Gharyan on the highway to Tripoli.

Germany said on Sunday it was making available to the NTC up to 100 million euros ($144 million) in loans for civilian and humanitarian purposes.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011

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