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Air raids force Gadhafi retreat

 


In this image taken during an organized trip by the Libyan authorities, young Libyan men flash victory signs in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday from one of half a dozen buses said to be heading to the Eastern town of Benghazi on a "green peace march", as described by information ministry officials. AP Photo/Jerome Delay

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Libyan rebels jubilate after taking the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Saturday. Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern gateway city of Ajdabiya on Saturday after international airstrikes on Moammar Gadhafi's forces, in the first major turnaround for an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat. Ajdabiya's sudden fall to Gadhafi's troops spurred the swift U.N. resolution authorizing international action in Libya, and its return to rebel hands on Saturday came after a week of airstrikes and missiles against the Libyan leader's military. AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

Air raids force Gadhafi retreat, rebels seize east

BEN HUBBARD, RYAN LUCAS — Associated Press

AJDABIYA, Libya — Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi's forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled.

Ajdabiya's initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi's military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war.

In Ajdabiya, drivers honked in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired guns into the air and danced on burned-out tanks that littered the road.

Their hold on the east secure again, the rebels promised to resume their march westward that had been reversed by Gadhafi's overwhelming firepower. Rebel fighters already had pushed forward to the outskirts of the oil port of Brega and were hoping to retake the city on Sunday, opposition spokeswoman Iman Bughaigis said, citing rebel military commanders.

"Without the planes we couldn't have done this. Gadhafi's weapons are at a different level than ours," said Ahmed Faraj, 38, a rebel fighter from Ajdabiya. "With the help of the planes we are going to push onward to Tripoli, God willing."

The Gadhafi regime acknowledged the airstrikes had forced its troops to retreat and accused international forces of choosing sides.

"This is the objective of the coalition now, it is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces," Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said in Tripoli. "They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war."

Ajdabiya's sudden capture by Gadhafi's troops on March 15 — and their move toward the rebel capital of Benghazi — gave impetus to the U.N. resolution authorizing international action in Libya, and its return to rebel hands on Saturday came after a week of airstrikes and missiles against the Libyan leader's military.

The Pentagon said U.S.-led forces pounded Libyan ground troops and other targets along the Mediterranean coast and in Tripoli, Ajdabiya and the western contested city of Misrata in strikes overnight, but they provided no details on what was hit. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Darryn James, says there were no Tomahawk cruise missile strikes overnight.

Altogether, the Pentagon said the U.S. military launched nearly 100 strikes overnight, just slightly higher than a day ago.

Airstrikes Friday on the city's eastern and western gates forced Gadhafi's troops into hasty retreat. Inside a building that had served as their makeshift barracks and storage, hastily discarded uniforms were piled in the bathroom and books on Islamic and Greek history and fake pink flowers were scattered on the floor.

Saif Sadawi, a 20-year-old rebel fighter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in his hands, said the city's eastern gate fell late Friday and the western gate fell at dawn Saturday after airstrikes on both locations.

"All of Ajdabiya is free," he said.

Rebels swept into the city and hauled away a captured rocket launcher and a dozen boxes of anti-aircraft ammunition, adding to their limited firepower. Later in the day, other rebels drove around and around a traffic circle, jubilantly firing an assortment of weapons in the air — anti-aircraft weapons, AK-47s, RPGs.

`AJDABIYA, Libya — Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi's forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled.

Ajdabiya's initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi's military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war.

In Ajdabiya, drivers honked in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired guns into the air and danced on burned-out tanks that littered the road.

Their hold on the east secure again, the rebels promised to resume their march westward that had been reversed by Gadhafi's overwhelming firepower. Rebel fighters already had pushed forward to the outskirts of the oil port of Brega and were hoping to retake the city on Sunday, opposition spokeswoman Iman Bughaigis said, citing rebel military commanders.

"Without the planes we couldn't have done this. Gadhafi's weapons are at a different level than ours," said Ahmed Faraj, 38, a rebel fighter from Ajdabiya. "With the help of the planes we are going to push onward to Tripoli, God willing."

The Gadhafi regime acknowledged the airstrikes had forced its troops to retreat and accused international forces of choosing sides.

"This is the objective of the coalition now, it is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces," Khaled Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said in Tripoli. "They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war."

Ajdabiya's sudden capture by Gadhafi's troops on March 15 — and their move toward the rebel capital of Benghazi — gave impetus to the U.N. resolution authorizing international action in Libya, and its return to rebel hands on Saturday came after a week of airstrikes and missiles against the Libyan leader's military.

The Pentagon said U.S.-led forces pounded Libyan ground troops and other targets along the Mediterranean coast and in Tripoli, Ajdabiya and the western contested city of Misrata in strikes overnight, but they provided no details on what was hit. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Darryn James, says there were no Tomahawk cruise missile strikes overnight.

Altogether, the Pentagon said the U.S. military launched nearly 100 strikes overnight, just slightly higher than a day ago.

Airstrikes Friday on the city's eastern and western gates forced Gadhafi's troops into hasty retreat. Inside a building that had served as their makeshift barracks and storage, hastily discarded uniforms were piled in the bathroom and books on Islamic and Greek history and fake pink flowers were scattered on the floor.

Saif Sadawi, a 20-year-old rebel fighter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in his hands, said the city's eastern gate fell late Friday and the western gate fell at dawn Saturday after airstrikes on both locations.

"All of Ajdabiya is free," he said.

Rebels swept into the city and hauled away a captured rocket launcher and a dozen boxes of anti-aircraft ammunition, adding to their limited firepower. Later in the day, other rebels drove around and around a traffic circle, jubilantly firing an assortment of weapons in the air — anti-aircraft weapons, AK-47s, RPGs.

 

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