An air strike hit a convoy of Libyan military vehicles moving toward Brega some 30 kilometres east of the city on Tuesday, as rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi continue to battle for control of the oil-exporting town.
AFP - Moamer Kadhafi's forces were hit by a NATO airstrike near Brega Tuesday after they launched an intensive artillery barrage that sent rebels fleeing from the outskirts of the east Libya oil town.
Two loyalist pick-up trucks heading for rebel positions were destroyed in the morning raid, but the soldiers inside appeared to have escaped unhurt, an AFP correspondent said.
The force of the impact left no doubt they were destroyed in an airstrike and not by shelling from the ground.
The airstrike occurred some 30 kilometres (18 miles) east of Brega, the scene of fierce fighting over the past week as rebels first captured the town and were then pushed back by Kadhafi forces.
Early Tuesday, Libyan rebels were sent scattering after Kadhafi's forces shelled them with artillery fire from the edge of Brega.
Opposition fighters had edged closer to Brega, 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, early in the morning before stampeding eastwards when the shelling began.
Just minutes before the NATO airstrike, entire families were seen fleeing the port town in cars, saying they could no longer take the heavy fighting between the ill-equipped rebels and the better-armed Kadhafi forces.
"Brega is almost deserted. There are only few men and their sons to guard the houses," Sami Ali, a resident of Brega told AFP.
"Our men (rebels) are in the city (on the east), but the forces of Kadhafi are shooting at them (from the west)."
Brega has been the scene of intense exchanges since Thursday, with both sides advancing only to withdraw again later under fire.
Mid-morning, a crackle of detonations was heard and a huge plume of black smoke seen drifting across the town.
Some rebels said it seemed an ammunition dump was going up but this could not immediately be confirmed. The rebels insisted the explosions were not linked to any fighting.
Last week Kadhafi's forces sent the rebels stampeding out of a string of vital east Libya oil terminals they had seized twice before, the second time with aid from a blistering NATO air attack.
The war has since bogged down, with the rebels trading rocket and mortar fire with Kadhafi's forces on a desert road outside Brega.
Kadhafi's men will not risk advancing farther into rebel-held territory through the open desert, where they are easy targets for NATO air strikes.
And the insurgents do not have the necessary weaponry to counter the artillery the loyalists have deployed inside the town.
Date created : 2011-04-05