I wonder how many of these ‘rebels’ were al-Qaeda terrorists? Incident comes as residents of Misrata say forces loyal to Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi mounted an intense artillery bombardment of the rebel-held city.
NATIONAL POST –A NATO-led air strike killed 13 Libyan rebel fighters as they tried to take control of Brega, before forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pushed them back beyond the oil town’s eastern limits on Saturday.
The rebel leadership described the deaths as an unfortunate mistake and called for continued air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces, who thrust east from Brega with rockets and machineguns. The rapid advance sent hundreds of anti-government fighters fleeing down the coast road, erasing two days of rebel gains.
Better-trained and experienced rebel fighters had earlier been fighting Gadhafi’s forces inside Brega, but it was unclear whether they held their ground or pulled back into the desert. Journalists moved back east with the rebels.
Earlier a Reuters correspondent saw at least four burnt-out vehicles including an ambulance by the side of the road near the entrance to Brega. Men prayed at freshly dug graves covered by the rebel red, black and green flag nearby.
“Some of Gadhafi’s forces sneaked in among the rebels and fired anti-aircraft guns in the air,” said rebel fighter Mustafa Ali Omar. “After that the NATO forces came and bombed them.”
Most blamed a Gadhafi agent for drawing the “friendly fire” but some said other rebels had shot into the air by accident. “The rebels shot up in the air and the alliance came and bombed them. We are the ones who made the mistake,” said one fighter who did not give his name.
Thirteen died in the bombing and seven were injured, rebel national council spokesman Hafiz Ghoga said in the eastern city of Benghazi, calling it a “regrettable incident.”
He said the rebel leadership still backed air strikes to protect Libyan civilians. “We are pleased to see the NATO forces doing what they are assigned to do — protecting
civilians al-qaeda fighters, enforcing a ceasefire and creating a situation to allow peaceful protests,” said Gheriani.
Well, well, well, former Gitmo terrorist is leading Libyan ‘rebels.’
A six-year detainee at Guantanamo Bay and two former Afghan Mujahedeen have stepped to the fore of this city’s military campaign, training new recruits for the front and to protect the city from infiltrators loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
The presence of Islamists like these amid the opposition has raised concerns, among some fellow rebels as well as their Western allies, that the goal of some Libyan fighters in battling Col. Gadhafi is to propagate Islamist extremism.
Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden’s holding company in Sudan and later for an al Qaeda-linked charity in Afghanistan, is training many of the city’s rebel recruits.
Abdel Hakim al-Hasady, an influential Islamic preacher and high-school teacher who spent five years at a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, oversees the recruitment, training and deployment of about 300 rebel fighters from Darna.
Mr. Hasady’s field commander on the front lines is Salah al-Barrani, a former fighter from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which was formed in the 1990s by Libyan mujahedeen returning home after helping to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan and dedicated to ousting Mr. Gadhafi from power.
Both Messrs. Hasady and Ben Qumu were picked up by Pakistani authorities after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and were turned over to the U.S. Mr. Hasady was released to Libyan custody two months later. Mr. Ben Qumu spent six years at Guantanamo Bay before he was turned over to Libyan custody in 2007. READ MORE