Selasa, 10 Mei 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World


Libyan rebels say they have made gains in Misrata

Posted: 10 May 2011 06:48 PM PDT

A damaged building is seen in an area purported to be in Misrata in this still image from video uploaded on April 24, 2011. — Social Media Website via Reuters TV

TRIPOLI, May 11 — Libyan rebels said they had made gains by driving back Muammar Gaddafi's troops on the eastern and western edges of the port city of Misrata and encircling them at the airport.

The rebels said yesterday they had also taken the town of Zareek, about 25km west of Misrata, but were still trying to extinguish fires at fuel storage tanks caused by a government attack last week.

Misrata, besieged by Gaddafi's forces for eight weeks, is strategically important to rebel hopes of overthrowing the Libyan leader because it is the only city they hold in the west of the North African country.

Nato launched missile strikes yesterday in the Tripoli area on targets that appeared to include Gaddafi's compound, witnesses said. NATO said later it carried out a strike against a government command and control post in the capital.

After two months of revolt linked to this year's uprisings in other Arab countries, the war has reached a stalemate. Rebels hold Benghazi and other towns in the oil-producing east while the government controls the capital and almost all of the west.

Thousands have been killed in the fighting.

The government says the rebels are armed criminals and al Qaeda militants and that the majority of Libyans support Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969.

He has not appeared in public since April 30, when a Nato air strike on a house in the capital killed his youngest son and three of his grandchildren.

The rebels, battling against Gaddafi's superior firepower, said government forces bombarded a residential area outside the Misrata on Tuesday and that 100 rebel fighters were wounded in a separate shelling attack.

Rebels had surrounded Gaddafi's forces at the airport and an air force academy near the southern neighbourhood of al Ghiran where the two sides fought fierce battles on Monday, a witness and a rebel spokesman said.

"The plan is to drive out Gaddafi's forces from the airport and the air force academy where they are now trapped," rebel spokesman Abdelsalam said by phone from Misrata.

It is difficult to independently verify accounts of events in Misrata.

"We continue to have success but our weakness is that we can't hold on to areas we take control of," said Abdelsalam.

NATO DILEMMA

The proximity of Gaddafi's forces to civilian areas made it hard for Nato to carry out its mandate of protecting civilians, Brigadier-General Claudio Gabellini, chief operations officer of Nato's Libya mission, told reporters in Brussels.

He said Nato had still managed to destroy more than 30 military targets in Misrata since April 29.

"Pro-Gaddafi forces have continued to shell the citizens of Misrata with long-range artillery, mortars and rockets, indiscriminately firing high explosive rounds into the city," said Gabellini.

The Libyan government says Nato's intervention is an act of colonial aggression by Western powers bent on stealing the country's oil.

The war has caused misery for tens of thousands forced to flee overland or by boat.

Aid agencies say witnesses reported a vessel carrying between 500 and 600 people foundered late last week near Tripoli and that many bodies were seen in the water.

Before that, about 800 people had gone missing since March 25 after trying to escape from Libya, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Most were from sub-Saharan Africa.

Libyan officials said yesterday four children had been wounded, two of them seriously, by flying glass caused by blasts from Nato strikes overnight.

Officials showed foreign journalists a hospital in the capital where some windows were shattered, apparently by blast waves from a Nato strike that toppled a nearby telecommunications tower.

The journalists were also taken to a government building housing the high commission for children, which had been completely destroyed. The old colonial building had been damaged before, in what officials said was a Nato bombing on April 30.

"The direction of at least one blast suggests Gaddafi's compound has been targeted," said one witness.

Libyan officials said the government released 120 rebel prisoners yesterday. A Reuters reporter in Tripoli saw the men rejoining their families at a government-organised event. — Reuters 

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Tunisia arrests nearly 200 after protests

Posted: 10 May 2011 06:25 PM PDT

TUNIS, May 11 — Tunisian authorities have arrested nearly 200 people after a series of anti-government protests that culminated in a street battle at the weekend in the capital, the state TAP new agency reported yesterday.

Security officials and the army made the arrests in raids on Monday and Tuesday across the North African country where tensions remain high after the ousting in January of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The 197 were charged with various crimes including attacking police with stones, breaking a recently imposed curfew, theft and vandalism, TAP said, quoting the Interior Ministry.

Riot police used tear gas on Sunday to break up a fourth day of protests by scores of youths demanding the departure of the government and Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi.

The spark for the protests was a warning from a former interior minister that there would be a coup d'etat if the Islamist group Ennahda won a planned July election.

The protesters say they fear the interim administration will renege on its commitment to guide Tunisia towards democracy after the decades of autocratic rule under Ben Ali.

The streets have been calm since Monday, with only small, peaceful protests by groups of workers.

The popular revolution in Tunisia has inspired uprisings across the Arab world. — Reuters  

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