US: Gadhafi Fires First Scud Missile of Conflict

Posted August 15th, 2011 at 8:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A U.S. military official says Libyan government forces have fired a scud missile for the first time in their conflict with anti-government rebels.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the missile landed in the desert about 80 kilometers outside Brega. Libyan forces and the rebels have battled over the strategic oil port city for months.

NATO and U.S. air strikes have targeted Libyan scud missile facilities and air defense sites out of concern that Mr. Gadhafi would use the missiles to target areas beyond government control.

There is no independent confirmation of the scud missile firing.

Also Monday, a senior Libyan Interior Ministry official flew to Egypt with nine family members in what appears to be another defection from Mr. Gadhafi's government.

Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah and his relatives arrived in Cairo on a private jet from the Tunisian resort island of Djerba. Abdullah is believed to be a deputy interior minister. He entered Egypt on a tourist visa and did not meet any representatives of Mr. Gadhafi's embassy in Cairo.

Western news agencies quote sources in Djerba as saying Mr. Gadhafi's aides met Libyan rebels at a local hotel on Sunday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Libya envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib arrived in Tunisia Monday to join the talks between the two sides.

In an audio message broadcast on Libyan state television Monday, Mr. Gadhafi urged his people to fight to “to liberate Libya” from rebels who began their uprising in February to end his 42-year rule. He called the rebels “traitors” and denounced NATO as a “colonizer” for staging airstrikes in support of the uprising.

Rebels said Monday they were in control of most of Zawiya, a strategic town 50 kilometers west of Mr. Gadhafi's power base in the capital, Tripoli. Rebel fighters entered Zawiya Saturday in their closest approach to the capital since government forces crushed Zawiya's rebel movement in the early weeks of the uprising.

Pro-Gadhafi forces exchanged fire with rebel fighters in Zawiya Monday, trying to push them back from the town center.

Rebel spokesmen said their fighters also captured the towns of Surman, 60 kilometers west of Tripoli, and Gharyan, 80 kilometers south of the capital. Their claims could not be independently verified. Rebels in Libya's Western Mountains have been trying to cut off Tripoli's supply routes as they edge closer to the capital.