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Libyan government forces say they've retaken Port Brega

Port Brega 'has been liberated' from 'terrorist gangs,' Libyan television says. Loyalists to Moammar Kadafi continue their advance toward rebel headquarters in Benghazi.

March 13, 2011|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
  • A rebel fighter sits in a truck with an antiaircraft gun during an airstrike by government forces at a rebel checkpoint along the road between Port Brega and Ras Lanuf.
A rebel fighter sits in a truck with an antiaircraft gun during an airstrike… (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters )

Reporting from Tripoli, Libya — The regime of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi claimed on Sunday it had retaken the rebel-controlled city of Port Brega as it continued its advance toward the opposition government headquarters in Benghazi.

Kadafi tried to take Port Brega days ago but was repulsed by rebels. Brega "has been liberated from the terrorist gangs of mercenaries and is now considered as safe," an urgent screen caption said on Libyan television. "All citizens are requested to go back to work and to their normal lives."

The claims could not be verified immediately.

Photos: Conflict in Libya continues as Kadafi's forces move east toward Port Brega

State television also called on employees in the country's oil industry — its production of crude now down by two-thirds — to return to work a day after Kadafi told reporters of his forces' recapture of the country's largest oil refinery, in the city of Ras Lanuf.

"The National Oil Co. announces that Libyan oil terminals are now safe following the end of acts of sabotage that have affected them and are gradually resuming their activities," Libyan television reported. "All workers are requested to join their places of work at all the oil installations, and all companies are also requested to send their tankers to these oil terminals for oil shipments."

The Kadafi government's violent suppression of an uprising against his 42-year rule has sparked a civil war between the regime's loyalists and a rebel interim government based in the eastern city of Benghazi. Kadafi's armed forces appear to be advancing after crushing rebellions in the key northwest corridor between the capital of Tripoli and the Tunisian border.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, which represents the oil-rich nations of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Arab League have endorsed calls for enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya to help rein in excessive use of force by Kadafi.

Activists in the rebel-controlled city of Misurata, the sole remaining opposition stronghold in the country's western half, claimed that at least 13 soldiers of an elite brigade run by Kadafi's son Khamis had defected to the rebels. The men are now being grilled for information about Kadafi's forces, said Salah Abdelaziz, an architect in Misurata who serves as a spokesman for the opposition.

Heavy fighting continues between the Kadafi regime's loyalists and rebel forces in control of the city of nearly 600,000. Abdelaziz reported heavy bombardment and raging gun battles on the city's outskirts. He said the people of the city and Libya despised Kadafi and wouldn't buckle.

"We started a peaceful revolution, and he changed it to a military battle," he said. "We are getting stronger, we are getting weapons. Nobody thinks Misurata will ever be under the control of Kadafi unless all the people here die."

daragahi@latimes.com

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