Libyan troops rout rebels at Tunis border

April 28, 2011 at 11:54 PM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, April 28 (UPI) -- Clashes in Libya Thursday left at least 10 civilians dead and 30 wounded, rebels fighting the regime of Moammar Gadhafi said.

Fighting for control of a checkpoint at the border with Tunisia persisted and Gadhafi loyalists besieged the desert city of Misurata, killing at least 10 civilians and wounding at least 30, a rebel spokesman told The Washington Post.

The Libyan military attacked near the Tunisian border cut off a vital supply line, the Tunisian state news agency reported. The attack occurred near the border town of Dhuheiba, which was part of a supply route for rebel forces in the 10-week-old uprising.

Rebel officials said an airstrike, apparently carried out by NATO, killed at least 10 rebel fighters Wednesday near the same spot where NATO destroyed a government convoy Tuesday in Misurata.

"If it was NATO, it means our boys are completely wrong to go there," Mohamed Ali, a rebel spokesman, told the Post via Skype. "They were told not to go there by commanders, and we accept responsibility for this mistake. No one in Misurata is blaming NATO for what happened."

If the airstrike was carried out by NATO planes, it would be the third mistaken attack on rebel forces since the air campaign began in March. NATO is heading an international military operation in Libya that includes airstrikes on Gadhafi's military resources. It is operating under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing any means necessary short of occupation to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi.

Gadhafi's forces were stationed near the airport in Misurata, positioned along the airport road and at the air academy, Ali said. Pro-government forces also shelled the southern area of Karzaz Thursday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama authorized as much as $25 million in non-lethal commodities and services be made available to "support key U.S. government partners such as the Transitional National Council in efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya."

While the United States considers the pro-democracy Transitional National Council eligible for U.S. support, it hasn't formally recognized it, Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz told CNN Wednesday. The lack of formal recognition hasn't stopped the United States from helping and supporting the opposition, Cretz said.

A three-member panel arrived in Libya Wednesday to begin a U.N.-ordered inquiry into reports of violence and human rights abuses, CNN reported. The team was dispatched by the organization's Human Rights Council.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it set up an international aid presence in Tripoli, as well as stationed humanitarian workers in Benghazi and neighboring countries of Tunisia, Egypt, Chad and Niger. Aid agencies said they have received about $129 million of the $310 million needed for relief operations.

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