Sunday, March 27, 2011

Libyan Rebels Advance on Key Oil Refinery at Ras Lanuf

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan rebels pushed past the oil town of Brega on Sunday, moving toward the major refinery at Ras Lanuf in the second day of a counterattack aided by allied airstrikes against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's forces Rebel fighters, emboldened after retaking the crossroads city of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, clashed overnight with government forces near the town of Egila, on the main coastal road to Ras Lanuf. Continued allied airstrikes were reported in the area.

If the rebels were able to retake Ras Lanuf — the peak of their progress in the early weeks of the uprising — it would mean they had two of Libya's most important refinery complexes under control. And it would mean they were in position to strike against the city of Surt, a stronghold of support for Colonel Qaddafi and an important symbolic and strategic target.

Rebel fighters were quoted by the Associated Press as saying that government forces were pulling back past Ras Lanuf, allowing the rebels to seize control of the Ras Lanuf refinery, though there was no independent confirmation.

Meanwhile, NATO's decision-making council was to decide on Sunday whether it would begin coordinating airstrikes directly against Colonel Qaddafi's forces. The military council has already agreed to take over maintaining a no-fly zone against the Libyan leader's aircraft, but the United States is seeking to have NATO broaden its oversight to include the airstrikes as well.


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