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Terrorism & Security

Qaddafi forces push into Libya's east

Forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi have launched what seems to be a campaign to take back parts of eastern Libya after a week of focusing on keeping control of Tripoli.

By Taylor BarnesCorrespondent / March 2, 2011

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi speaks at an event in Tripoli in this March 2, image from video. Qaddafi, who has lost swathes of his country to rebels, said on Wednesday that he was not a president and so could not resign his position, and said there were no internal problems in Libya.

Libyan TV via Reuters TV/Reuters

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Forces loyal to Libya's leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, are moving to retake parts of eastern Libya that fell into opposition hands last week. The offensive marks the first major attempt to push back after a week of digging in around Tripoli, the capital and Qaddafi's stronghold.

For a brief period Wednesday, pro-regime forces claimed they had retaken the eastern oil town of Al Brega. Opposition members say they have since reclaimed control of Brega with the help of fighters who rushed in from nearby towns, CNN reports.

Brega, which holds a key oil refinery, port, and airstrip, is on the western edge of the territory now in opposition hands, about 125 miles from opposition stronghold Benghazi, Associated Press reports.

Qaddafi's forces took the town relatively easily at dawn on Wednesday by catching opposition forces by surprise, opposition fighter Ahmed Dawas, who was in Brega, told the AP. Most of the fighters initially fled, only to come back at midday with reinforcements and reportedly retake the town.

Reuters says the Qaddafi offensive on Brega may be the "most significant" operation by Qaddafi's forces since the uprising began and that opposition forces might soon request foreign intervention.

The assault appeared to be the most significant military operation by Gaddafi since the uprising began two weeks ago and set off a confrontation that Washington says could descend into a long civil war unless the veteran strongman steps down. …

"We are probably going to call for foreign help, probably air strikes at strategic locations that will put the nail in his (Gaddafi's) coffin," Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the rebel February 17th Coalition, told Reuters.

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