Monday, March 7, 2011

Libya: at least a dozen killed in Bin Jawad clashes

07 Mar 2011

The casualty list posted at Ajdabiya hospital, where most of the wounded were taken after Sunday\'s clashes, reported seven dead and 52 people hurt.

According to the hospital casualty list in Ajdabiya, the dead were volunteer fighters, mostly from Benghazi.

At the Al Jala hospital in the rebels\' stronghold of Benghazi, Doctor Isam Binur said five other dead were brought in from Bin Jawad.

Rebels were forced to withdraw from the frontline at Bin Jawad, 19 miles west along the coast from Ras Lanuf as pro-Gaddafi forces reportedly seized control. Gaddafi forces also launched an air strike on Ras Lanuf, according to agencies.

The United Nations and the European Union are dispatching fact-finding missions to Libya, where reports by residents of attacks on civilians by security forces have triggered an investigation into human rights abuse allegations. The UN announced that it had appointed a new envoy to Libya and that Libya\'s foreign minister had agreed to accept the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli, the capital.

As the rival combatants prepared to resume battle on Monday, the authorities launched an appeal to the rebels in the east for dialogue, in the clearest overture yet to their opponents.

Jadallah Azous Al-Talhi, a Libyan prime minister in the 1980s who is originally from eastern Libya, appeared on state television reading an address to elders in Benghazi.

He asked them to \"give a chance to national dialogue to resolve this crisis, to help stop the bloodshed, and not give a chance to foreigners to come and capture our country again.\"

William Hague, the foreign secretary, meanwhile will update MPs on the situation in Libya in an oral statement to the House of Commons this afternoon.

He is expected to give further details of a botched SAS mission that saw troops captured by rebels and a diplomat\'s plea for their release broadcast on state television.

The eight-strong team – thought to have included an MI6 officer – had been sent to the country in a bid to foster links with opponents of Gaddafi.

But the plans appear to have gone awry early on when their helicopter sparked an alert by landing near Benghazi without informing rebel commanders.

The group was reportedly detained after a search of their bags revealed ammunition, explosives, maps and fake passports.

A telephone call from the UK ambassador to Libya Richard Northern to a rebel leader trying to clear up the \"misunderstanding\" was then seemingly intercepted and broadcast.

The team was finally freed and left Libya last night on board HMS Cumberland.

Meanwhile, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, spokesman for the rebels\' provisional transitional national council, said: \"The reason they were arrested is because they came into the country unofficially without previous arrangement with Libyan officials. Libya is an independent nation, and we have our borders that we expect to be respected.\"

He added that there was \"no crisis\" between the council and Britain and that anti-Gaddafi forces were \"more than willing\" to talk to any delegation sent \"in a legitimate way\".

Apart from the damage to Britain\'s reputation, there is speculation that the incident could hand Colonel Gaddafi a propaganda victory by adding weight to his claims of \"colonial\" influences in the unrest.

In an earlier statement, Mr Hague said: \"I can confirm that a small British diplomatic team has been in Benghazi.

\"The team went to Libya to initiate contacts with the opposition. They experienced difficulties, which have now been satisfactorily resolved. They have now left Libya.

\"We intend, in consultation with the opposition, to send a further team to strengthen our dialogue in due course. This diplomatic effort is part of the UK\'s wider work on Libya, including our ongoing humanitarian support.

\"We continue to press for Gaddafi to step down and we will work with the international community to support the legitimate ambitions of the Libyan people.\"

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