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NATO forces hit Libyan oil depots

BRUSSELS, July 8 (UPI) -- NATO forces for the first time since the conflict struck Libyan oil facilities in an effort to cut off fuel supplies to Gadhafi loyalists, a commander said.

NATO began enforcing a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya in March to protect civilians from attacks from troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

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For the first time since the conflict began, NATO forces struck oil facilities at Brega as rebel fighters moved closer to Tripoli.

British navy Rear Adm. Russ Harding told London's newspaper The Independent that the decision to strike oil installations wasn't taken lightly.

Targets included refueling depots, Harding said. Gadhafi's forces were seen using private cars and other non-military vehicles as the country's military capability is degraded by NATO airstrikes.

"By depriving Gadhafi of fuel we are depriving him of mobility," said Harding. "We have seen his forces drive deep down into the desert to pick up supplies, pick up ammunition."

The Libyan conflict shuttered a major African oil supplier, prompting the International Energy Agency to order its members to release emergency oil stockpiles.

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