Libyan Rebel Forces Relaunch Attacks

Posted June 12th, 2011 at 7:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Fresh fighting between troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and resurgent anti-government rebels has broken out across the war-torn country as rebel forces take advantage of increased coordination with NATO to mount a series of attacks.

In Zawiyah, a strategic city 50 kilometers west of the capital, Libyan rebels regrouped and clashed with pro-Gadhafi forces weeks after troops had forced the rebels' retreat. A coastal highway that serves as a major supply route between Tripoli and Tunisia was closed as a result of the fighting.

A London-based opposition spokesman said Sunday that several hundred rebel fighters controlled large areas of western Zawiyah as well as a section of the coastal highway. But a government official said loyalist troops had repelled the attackers and that rebels had exaggerated the extent the fighting.

If opposition forces are able to retake Zawiyah, they could cut off Tripoli's already-meager supply line. A naval blockade and NATO airstrikes have left the capital largely isolated. Rebels briefly took control of Zawiyah in March but were beaten back by pro-Gadhafi forces.

Also Sunday, government forces killed five people when they fired mortars and Grad rockets at Zintan, part of the rebel-held Western Mountains region. Elsewhere, opposition forces say fighting killed at least six at Dafniya, just west of rebel-held Misrata.

Rebel leaders also reported clashes in Sabha, an oasis town 800 kilometers south of Tripoli. Libya's lightly populated southern regions were long-believed to be solidly pro-Gadhafi.

In a significant political victory, the rebel Transitional National Council won recognition from the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said his country recognized the council as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.” He said the UAE will soon open a provisional office in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Also Sunday, Libyan state television broadcast video footage of Mr. Gadhafi meeting the president of the international chess federation. Images showed the Libyan leader playing chess in Tripoli with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who is also a former Russian provincial governor.

Meanwhile, loud blasts from apparent NATO airstrikes rocked the Libyan capital again Sunday.

U.S. officials traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Africa say the situation in Libya will feature prominently in her remarks Tuesday at an African Union meeting in Ethiopia.