Libyan Rebels Seize Huge Arms Depot

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Rebels in western Libya have captured a massive arms depot from forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi, boosting critical resupply efforts and fueling an opposition push toward the capital, Tripoli.

Hundreds of rebel fighters Tuesday combed through the weapons cache, a portion of which had exploded following NATO bombing. But much remained intact, and a long rebel vehicle convoy left loaded with rockets, ammunition, high-caliber guns and assault rifles.

Insurgents also seized dozens of military vehicles at the desert site, some 20 kilometers southeast of Zintan, following clashes with loyalist troops.

Meanwhile, Britain said a new report by a team planning for a post-conflict Libya recommends that Mr. Gadhafi's security forces be left intact after a rebel victory, avoiding what many view as a critical error made after the Iraq war.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said Tuesday that in the areas of security and justice, the report stressed the importance of maximizing the use of “existing structures.” He also said the United Nations is looking into sending an unarmed peacekeeping force into Libya once the conflict ends.

A British-led international team, including the U.S., Italy, Turkey, and Canada, has spent several weeks in rebel-held eastern Libya assessing the country's needs once the war is over – assuming Mr. Gadhafi is ousted.

The Reuters news agency says the group sent its report to Libya's opposition Transitional National Council on Monday.

In The Hague, the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor urged Mr. Gadhafi's aides to arrest the Libyan leader and hand him to the court for trial.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo's remarks Tuesday came a day after the ICC issued arrest warrants for Mr. Gadhafi and two top lieutenants on war crimes charges linked to their suppression of the opposition uprising. The ICC's chief prosecutor also said he is optimistic Mr. Gadhafi's government would fall within two or three months.

Libya dismissed the arrest warrants Monday. Justice Minister Mohammad al-Gamudi said Libya does not accept the legitimacy of the court.

The ICC issued the warrants against Mr. Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the head of Libyan intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi. The indictment accuses the Libyan leader and his aides of deterring protesters through the use of detention, torture and lethal force, such as ordering snipers to fire on civilians leaving mosques.

The U.S., Britain, France and Italy have all praised the arrest warrants.

Mr. Gadhafi is the second sitting head of state to have an ICC arrest warrant issued against him. One was previously issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, but has yet to be served.