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Terrorism & Security

Libya's rebels stage bold offensive on oil town of Brega

Taking Brega, a strategic oil port in eastern Libya, would be a key victory for the rebels, who lost the town to Qaddafi's troops months ago.

By Staff writer / July 18, 2011

Libyan rebels drive towards the Brega frontline from Ajdabiya to battle loyalist troops in eastern Libya on July 14.

Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

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Libya's rebels have advanced on the town of Brega, a strategically important oil port in eastern Libya that has been held by Qaddafi's forces since March. While reports conflict on whether they now have complete control of the town, the offensive is seen as one of their most ambitious to date.

According to BBC, one rebel spokesman said that they were in charge of the northeastern section of the town and were staging an offensive in the southwestern section. Agence France-Presse reports that the rebels were engaged in close-range combat within Brega, but that poorly coordinated advances and the resulting losses prompted them to pause their assault in order to regroup for a more organized offensive.

"Some small groups have made it inside, but we do not control the whole (town) yet," rebel spokesman Mohammed Zawi said, according to AFP. "It is now close fighting."

CNN reports that the troops fielded thousands of landmines along the approaches to Brega as well as an intentional fire fed continuously by an oil pipeline, which slowed their advance. An expedition group entered the city ahead of the bulk of the troops and clashed with Qaddafi's forces. According to the CNN report, the troops are now about five miles from the town.

According to Reuters, which reports that the rebels have booted most of Qaddafi's forces from the town, his troops mostly retreated to Ras Lanuf, a town to the west of Brega.

The Guardian reports that the Brega offensive is one of the rebels' most ambitious and has been bolstered by NATO air attacks.

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