Africa

Libya unrest: Loyalists battle rebels for oil terminal

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Media captionJohn Simpson describes the moment Gaddafi's forces bomb an arms dump

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have moved into rebel territory in the east and are battling for an oil installation in the town of Brega.

Its manager said government forces took control at dawn without force but the rebels said they had regained the town.

Pro-Gaddafi jets also bombed an arms dump in the nearby city of Ajdabiya.

Col Gaddafi said on TV he would "fight until the last man and woman" and warned thousands of Libyans would die if Western forces intervened.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he believes about 1,000 people have so far died in the violence engulfing the country.

The UN has suspended Libya from its Human Rights Council, accusing it of committing gross and systematic violations of human rights.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Wednesday he was formally opening an investigation into crimes against humanity in Libya.

No-fly zone

Government forces reportedly took the oil facility at Brega at dawn on Wednesday without using force.

"It's not an attack. We are OK. The government troops came in to secure the whole area. Our concern is to maintain the facility," Ahmed Jerksi, the manager of the oil installation in Brega, told the Associated Press.

But rebels in Benghazi, the main city in eastern Libya, said they had retaken the town.

"They tried to take Brega this morning, but they failed," spokesman Mustafa Gheriani told Reuters news agency. "It is back in the hands of the revolutionaries. He is trying to create all kinds of psychological warfare to keep these cities on edge."

Medical sources in Brega told BBC Arabic that 14 people had been killed in the fighting.

The BBC's John Simpson in Ajdabiya says fighting still seems to be going on in Brega but the people in Ajdabiya are expecting an attack

He says the defences there are pretty skimpy - three elderly Russian tanks, plus three mobile anti-aircraft guns that failed to shoot down a Russian-made jet which twice dropped bombs on a huge arms dump on the edge of town but failed to hit it.

Protesters fear air attacks on the towns they have won and are calling for the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya.

The UK has been investigating the possibility, but the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN says there is little appetite in the Security Council for such a move.

UK PM David Cameron on Tuesday insisted it was right to be looking at plans for a no-fly zone, adding: "We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets."

'False reports'

In his speech broadcast on Libyan TV in a large hall in central Tripoli, Col Gaddafi warned against any foreign intervention.

"We will not accept [an] American intervention. This will lead to a bloody war and thousands of Libyans will die if America and Nato enter Libya."

He said the UN had passed resolutions condemning Libya based on "false reports" and he challenged the UN to investigate.

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Media captionCol Gaddafi: 'Libyan people responsible for administering power'

"We urge the world, the United Nations, to see where the people were killed, to send a fact-finding team."

He condemned those countries that had frozen Libyan assets, saying: "The assets are the assets of the Libyan nation... I am the asset of Libya, not the American dollar."

Col Gaddafi spoke as a crowd of supporters and officials chanted the slogan: "God, Muammar and Libya."

The Libyan leader said he was "surprised" that his name had been mentioned abroad since he had handed over power "to the people" in 1977, eight years after taking power and there were no positions he could resign from.

He said he had been told that "hostile radios" outside Libya were focusing on him.

In an attempt to explain recent unrest, he said "shady members of al-Qaeda" had formed "dormant cells" in several cities.

But he said there had been no violence at demonstrations in Libya.

He said the nation's oilfields were secure but companies were afraid of "armed gangsters".

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who was in the hall, said that although there was defiance to the outside world, Col Gaddafi did talk of a free press and freedom of speech and a dialogue with the intelligentsia, so we could read into this, he says, some attempt at internal olive branches.

In two weeks of unrest, Col Gaddafi has lost control of large parts of Libya.

The violence has led to a major humanitarian crisis on the Tunisian border, with tens of thousands of foreigners, most of them Egyptian, stranded and unable to get home.

Some 75,000 people have fled to Tunisia since unrest began and 40,000 more are waiting to cross, the UN says.

Britain, France, Spain and other countries on Wednesday launched emergency airlifts to evacuate those gathered at the Libya-Tunisia border.

In other developments:

  • In the capital Tripoli, where Col Gaddafi is still in charge, a fuel tanker has overturned, causing several large explosions. It is not clear whether the incident was caused by sabotage
  • Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam tells France's Le Figaro newspaper "a few hundred people" died in eastern Libya in the early stages of the unrest after police officers "panicked" but denied air strikes against civilians
  • Two US warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, reach the Mediterranean after passing through the Suez Canal, following orders from Defence Secretary Robert Gates to move closer to Libya
  • The rebel revolutionary council in Benghazi formally asks the UN to end air strikes by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi, media reports say
  • The World Food Programme announces a $38.7m aid programme for 2.7 million people engulfed in the crisis

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