Reports: Gadhafi forces attack 2 cities

Feb. 28, 2011 at 2:24 PM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Libya's embattled government fought to retake rebel-controlled areas Monday, launching attacks on two cities, witnesses and rebel army commanders said.

In Geneva, Switzerland, meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world has witnessed pro-Gadhafi forces "open fire on peaceful protesters again and again."

"They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators," Clinton said. "There are reports of soldiers executed for refusing to turn their guns on their fellow citizens, of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture."

The actions of Gadhafi and his supporters mean "they have lost the legitimacy to govern," she said, adding the Libyan people are saying it's time for the strongman to end his four-decade regime without further violence or delay.

"We all need to work together on further steps to hold the Gadhafi government accountable, provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, and support the Libyan people as they pursue a transition to democracy," Clinton said. "As we move forward on these fronts, we will continue to explore all possible options for action. As we have said, nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyans."

The European Union voted to impose a package of sanctions on Libya Monday, including an arms embargo, an asset freeze, and a visa ban on Gadhafi, members of his family and other people involved in the violent crackdown, the EU said on its Web site.

In Benghazi, an opposition commander said forces loyal to Gadhafi tried to bomb Libya's second-largest city and a stronghold of anti-government supporters, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The bombing mission was repelled by anti-aircraft weapons, said Col. Tareq Saad Hussein, one of the colonels in charge of running defense matters in Benghazi.

In Misurata, Libya's third-largest city held by rebel forces, city defense patrols claimed to have shot down an attack helicopter sent from the direction of Tripoli, witnesses said. Residents said they have repelled attacks from government forces on the city's radio antenna.

In Tripoli, Libya's capital, residents told the Journal Gadhafi is trying to strengthen his grip and food prices are skyrocketing.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday France was sending two airplanes of humanitarian aid and personnel to Benghazi.

"It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories," Fillon said on French radio.

Hussein said Ras Lanoof, a western seafront town that had been rebel-controlled, fell to about 150 government troops Sunday. Hussein said Gadhafi forces were consolidating along the dividing line between the rebel-controlled east and pro-Gadhafi western half of the country.

Libyan authorities said reports of government supporters firing on civilians were false and blamed outsiders for creating the chaos sweeping the country, The New York Times reported.

"No massacres, no bombardments, no reckless violence against civilians," government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said.

Libyan authorities brought 130 foreign journalists to Tripoli to demonstrate Gadhafi and his supporters had nothing to hide, the spokesman said.

Ibrahim drew comparisons about the reported massacres in Libya with reports that Saddam Hussein developed unconventional weapons in Iraq, the Times said. Those claims, which ultimately were shown to be false, were the basis for the war that toppled Hussein.

"The Islamists want chaos. The West also wants chaos," he said. "The Iraq example is not a legend -- we all lived through it. Doesn't this remind you of the whole Iraq scenario?"

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on the Libyan government for its military response to demonstrations that have killed at least 1,000 people, the U.N. and rights groups said. The council also declared an arms embargo, an international freeze on Gadhafi family assets and travel bans. The council also approved prosecuting Gadhafi for war crimes at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands.

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