Libya Alhurra Updates

Posts tagged Ajdabiya

Apr 17

Ajdabiya: hospital staff remain as civilians flee.

Two doctors have gone missing and the building has been shelled as fighting over the past weeks spilled into the city. Medics there can often hear the thudding of Grad rockets landing at the [Ajdabiya]’s western outskirts as they work.

It’s difficult to operate here. How can you operate when there’s bombing?" G.S. Mohamed, the hospital’s head of surgery, said. "We’re civilians, you know, we’re not used to war. Every sound affects us during the surgery.

While civilians have fled, most of the doctors stayed behind, even when Gadaffi forces took over Ajdabiya in March.

Most of the nurses and office staff fled, however, after reports that Gaddafi’s troops had targeted hospitals in Misrata, giving the facility an eerie, abandoned feeling. Even patients do not stay long; they are sent to Benghazi after early treatment.

Volunteers from Benghazi and other towns have gone to help. They sleep in back rooms of the hospital, and many have not completed medical school.

But their help is needed on days like Saturday, when more than two dozen wounded rebels arrived, most hit by a Grad rocket salvo on the road to the oil port of Brega. At least eight rebels were killed in the attack, according to hospital records.

"Everyone was burned," Mohamed Barasi, a 21-year-old medical student, said. "I’ve never seen anything like that in my life."

Part of the hospital’s roof was blown apart during one battle, and pieces of concrete are still scattered on the ground nearby. Hospital staff said it was unclear if it was hit on purpose or by accident.

The twisted remains of a shell sit near the now-vacant reception, with a handwritten note attached saying it fell at the city’s western gate.

Read More…

Michael Vovk, a Ukrainian surgeon who has worked at the hospital for more than eight years, said he did not plan to leave his adopted city despite the danger.

"I’m not crazy. We’re all afraid. But we have hearts and we have a responsibility toward people," he said. "We’re doctors. Our job is to help."

Apr 16

ICRC sets up shop in Libya.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was given authorization to establish a permanent office in Tripoli April 11. Yesterday a team of four staff specializing in health matters, detention-related activities and logistics arrived there.

"Now that our specialists have arrived, we will go back to Misrata and Zawiyah but we will also start working in other areas,” said Jean-Michel Monod, who heads the ICRC team in Tripoli. “We need to see and talk to those affected and respond directly to their needs. Having the support of all the parties will certainly help us to achieve this aim.”

Some key points from today’s ICRC Operations Update:

  • Misrata: The ICRC ship that docked there on 8 April delivered enough medical supplies to treat 300 patients with weapon-related injuries. Together with Libyan Red Crescent personnel, ICRC staff toured the streets in Misrata to assess the need for humanitarian aid.
  • ICRC staff also collected more than 180 “safe and well” messages from foreign nationals in Misrata and contacted their families abroad, with the help of Libyan Red Crescent volunteers, to give them news of their loved ones.
  • Thousands of people have been displaced to the eastern towns of Tobruk, Daran, Al Beyda and Al Marj. On 14 April, the ICRC started distributing food and other items to 18,000 people in those towns in cooperation with the Libyan Red Crescent, the municipal councils and the Committee for Humanitarian Aid and Relief.
  • The ICRC has provided the General Electricity Company of Libya and the Benghazi Water and Sewage Authority with basic supplies needed to repair the low-tension electricity network and the water network so that thousands of people will continue to have water and electricity.
  • An assessment of weapon-contaminated areas in Benghazi, Baida and Ajdabiya has already been completed. Together with the Libyan Red Crescent, the ICRC is now starting an awareness-raising campaign to warn of the danger of unexploded ordnance. The ICRC also intends to send a specialized team to provide technical support for clearing the worst-affected areas.
  • Efforts continue to assist refugees displaced on the borders of Tunisia and Egypt.

Apr 12

Killing of captives point to war crimes.

Amnesty International has documented fresh evidence of extrajudicial executions in Ajdabiya…

Amnesty International researchers in eastern Libya yesterday saw the bodies of two opposition fighters who had been shot in the back of the head after their hands had been bound behind their backs.

Today they saw a body of another man who had been shot dead while his hands and feet were bound.

“Based on what our delegates have seen in eastern Libya over the last six weeks, the circumstances of these killings strongly suggest that they were carried out by the forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The deliberate killing of captured fighters is a war crime. All those responsible for such crimes - those who ordered or sanctioned them as well as those who carried them out - must be left in no doubt that they will be held fully accountable,” said Malcolm Smart.

Read More…

Apr 11

Gadaffi forces have been repelled from Ajdabiya

The critical crossroads town of Ajdabiya lying just 100 miles south of Benghazi, and providing access to the oil port of Tobruq farther to the east has been under attack since Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported opposition forces were surprised by a flanking move by Col. Gadhafi’s forces coming out of the southern desert.

CJ Chivers has been reporting from the front lines in Libya. Here is a brief synopsis and some snippets from the latest New York Times report

On Saturday, the Forces of Free Libya (FFL) were under attack by artillery barrages, sending the opposition into retreat several times and causing heavy damage…

Loyalist forces were able to infiltrate the city, fighting gun battles in the city center against local rebels who had stayed to defend their homes.

Heavy NATO airstrikes on Pro-G forces outside Adjabiya were reported in the morning and afternoon contributing to the turnaround there.

NATO officials reported destroying several tanks on the western approaches to the city, and in the rebel holdout city of Misurata, over the past day… “We are hitting the regime logistics facilities as well as their heavy weapons because we know Gaddafi is finding it hard to sustain his attacks on civilians”, General Bouchard said.

The Wall Street Journal:

Rebels in Ajdabiya cheered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Sunday for what appeared to be its most intensive day of attacks on ground forces since taking control of the campaign on March 31.

The alliance said Sunday it destroyed 11 tanks on the route to Ajdabiya and 14 tanks approaching the besieged rebel-held enclave of Misrata in western Libya, although it was impossible to verify the claim.

The bodies of pro-Gadhafi fighters lay amid the wreckage of about a dozen Land Cruisers, which Col. Gadhafi’s forces have been using instead of tanks in a bid to maintain a lower profile and dodge airstrikes.

Apparently two FFL commanders claimed they were able to direct the NATO attacks to their targets

Col. Mohammed Khufair, of the Ali Hassan Jaber Brigade, said a system has been put in place within the past week in which rebel commanders could call in requests for air support to the rebel command center. But he said the center received a lot of calls from volunteer fighters that weren’t always reliable, and other field commanders interviewed didn’t seem to be aware of the system.

Today, Sunday, Adjabiya appears to be back in opposition hands according to the NYTimes:

Occasional skirmishes between small units within the city on Sunday morning appeared to be dying out. And other than an apparent mortar attack against a rebel checkpoint, the loyalists’ artillery and rocket batteries were mostly silent by the afternoon, when rebel fighters were able to roam many of Ajdabiya’s streets with confidence.

The Wall Street Journal added:

On the road leading west out of Ajdabiya, an old man in traditional dress chanted jubilantly into a megaphone: “Allahu Akbar,” or “Allah is the greatest!”

There have been claims that hundreds of bodies were found outside the city. These seem unfounded. Chivers says “Several bodies, not hundreds.” and AJA apparently put the number at about 15. Additional photos and information are available at The Gun including a photo of the now iconic west gate of Adjabiya

Gate of Adjabiya photo by CJ Chivers

The rebels have had primary custody of this checkpoint for much of the uprising. Notice that they have done nothing to fortify it. With its green arches rising high over an otherwise almost featureless pan of desert, the checkpoint is both a magnet for fire and a prize that has repeatedly changed hands.

Apr 9

Libyan women fleeing Ajdabiya describe ordeal

Many Libyan women left their husbands and brothers behind in Ajdabiya to fight against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Some of them who fled to Benghazi described how Gaddafi’s troops kidnapped children and the elderly to be used as human shields. Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports. (09 April 2011)

Apr 8

Air strikes reported in Zintan and Ajdabiya

NATO strikes hit weapon depots near Zintan-resident

Fri Apr 8, 2011 8:24pm GMT (Reuters) - NATO airstrikes hit weapons depots belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi near the town of Zintan on Friday, a resident said.

"The depots are situated 15 km southeast of Zintan. We could see buildings on fire in the distance," the resident called Abdulrahman said by phone. "First we heard aircraft and then we counted some 14 explosions. Some people used binoculars and saw buildings on fire."

Ali Hashem, Al Jazeera correspondant in Libya reports:

NATO jets bombed tonight a Gaddafi brigades convoy moving from Jalo towards Ajdabiya #libya #feb17
10 minutes ago via web

8 pm update

EU sources: Humanitarian mission in Misurata, Libya imminent

Apr 8, 2011, 17:31 GMT

Brussels - The European Union is preparing to launch a humanitarian military mission to the under-siege Libyan city of Misurata within days, sources in the bloc said Friday.

Ben Wedeman from CNN reports from Ajdabiya :

No, for those who are curious, didn’t see or hear any planes, NATO or otherwise, in the Ajdabia are today, Friday. #libya
about 1 hour ago
Western gate of ajdabia comes under heavy Libyan army artillery bombardment this afternoon. Ajdabia a ghost town. Most defenders have fled.
about 1 hour ago

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 20)

Even if the explaination that the rebel tanks were moving in different directions and were difficult to distinguish who was operating them, what’s really weird is that Rear Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander of NATO’s ops in Libya affirmed that until yesterday, in spite of the pictures available on the internet, the alliance didn’t know that the rebels were operating tanks. According to the rebels, they are operating some 400 tanks and NATO was informed that they were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.

Heavy clashes in Libya’s rebel-held Misrata

MISRATA, Libya (AP) — Anti-government fighters battled forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in fierce clashes Friday in the only major rebel-held city in western Libya as international relief efforts were stepped up for civilians caught in the crossfire.

Last night’s annoucement
from Jeff Warren and others concerning air strikes on Sirte, Misrata and Brega remain largely unconfirmed today.

Where’s the front?

The fog of war descends today. Several conflicting reports on where the front is. Part of the problem is things are very fluid and can change quickly. An excellent resource to check when faced with such situations is Wikipedia.

  7 April

During the night, the rebels brought up 20 tanks to the frontline east of Brega. However, in the morning, what appeared to be NATO air-strikes, hit rebel positions and destroyed three of them and also killed 13 rebels and wounded 16. Following the air-strikes, government troops started an artillery attack on the rebels. This led to another retreat away from Brega.[43][44]

Later during the day, rebels speculated that the air-strikes may have come from one of Gaddaffi’s fighter jets small enough to not be picked up on radar.[45] The National Transitional Council stated they believe that the cause of the attack was due to Gaddafi’s plane’s evading the no-fly zone. Following the attacks, loyalists chased the rebels to Ajdabiya, and both civilians and rebels were on the verge of retreating from the city.[46]

Wikipedia, like the front, is subject to rapid changes during current events, so don’t trust this snapshot from about 1am Thursday in Libya. go the The Third Battle of Brega page for the latest.

More in depth reporting comes from C.J. Chivers, author of The Gun, senior reporter for the New York Times, and former Marine Corps Infantry officer, his military knowledge combined with acute observational skills and eyewitness accounts from the front have become invaluable. His latest report was filed in the afternoon, so it may be outdated now, but gives some details…

The rebels have lacked armor in recent weeks, but have been hinting for several days that soon they would unveil a surprise at the front. Survivors of the attack said their convoy included equipment confiscated from Colonel Qaddafi’s military that in recent weeks had been refurbished and made road-worthy. They said it was being brought forward for a fresh attack against the oil town of Brega, which fell to the loyalists this week.

The convoy, however, was attacked just short of the front lines.

The convoy included armored vehicles, cargo trucks, buses and tanks, was at least 30 miles southwest of Ajdabiya and had stopped on the side of the road, said Alsounese Fazan, who was driving a jeep with the convoy.

Confusion abounds regarding this attack. some claim NATO. some say Gadaffi forces were flying a plane. some think it was just artillery or mortar fire…

Mr. Fazan, who was being treated for minor injuries at the Al Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, said the rebels heard the sound of what they thought were NATO aircraft in the morning. “We shouted ‘God is great,’ and after that we heard nothing. And then they bombed us.” He said that he saw four separate explosions, one of which was about 100 yards away.

There were several attacks, he said, occurring at roughly 10 minute intervals.

Another wounded fighter, Amin Jaman, 32, said that all of the vehicles in the convoy were flying the bright, tricolor Libyan rebel flag. He said that he was standing on top of a stationary tank, and never heard the sound of an airplane when the first ordnance exploded nearby.

…It was not immediately clear whether that blast came from an airstrike or an unrelated attack. At times during the past week, fire from the Qaddafi forces have reached the area where the ambulance was struck.

It will probably take some time before the incident is understood fully. Meanwhile…

Rebel fighters said that later in the afternoon, a half a dozen rockets or other munitions exploded at the western edge of the city. The explosions caused a mass panic, as civilians and rebels, including some with heavy weapons, briefly packed the highway north to Benghazi. There were conflicting reports about whether the rebels maintained a presence in Ajdabiya: some fighters said a small contingent had been left behind to defend the city, but that could not be independently confirmed.

By around 2 p.m., the Qaddafi forces had advanced close enough to Ajdabiya to send rockets into the city near the west gate, the soldiers said, apparently touching off panic among the civilians there.

CJ Chivers also has a Twitter Feed where he promises:

many rebs fled w/ weapons. some say all fled. others say some stayed to fight. will head out @ daylight 2 check.

Al Jazeera Arabic is reporting Adjabiya remains in “Forces of Free Libya” hands although most civilians have fled.  We may simply have to wait until daylight for a better picture, both on where the front is, and on who struck the FFL and by what means.

In the meantime, do check out Chivers’ detailed and realistic assessment of the FFL.

These men are a Libyan melting pot, a cross-section of professions and backgrounds. Businessmen and engineers fight beside students and laborers.

A few are Libyans from abroad who hurried home in February or March, answering an urge to topple Qaddafi and remake Libya on less autocratic lines.

They lack structure and they know it. Each contingent fights largely according to its own whim. Sometimes no one knows who is in charge.

Please do check out Mr. Chivers’ various reports in their entirety. We are lucky to have an ex military officer reporting from the front.

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