Published on 26 Mar 2011 Sections , ,

Libyan rebels take back Ajdabiya

Libyan rebels have taken back the town of Ajdabiya after an all-night battle. Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum asks if the rebels will be able to maintain their momentum.

Rebel fighters in Libya danced on tanks, waved flags and fired in the air near buildings riddled with bullet holes. Half a dozen wrecked tanks lay near the eastern entrance to the town and the ground was strewn with empty shell casings.

There were signs of heavy fighting at Ajdabiya’s western gate. The decomposing bodies of more than a dozen Gaddafi fighters were strewn over the ground. An abandoned truckload of ammunition suggested Gaddafi forces had beaten a hasty retreat.

“All of Ajdabiya is free and all the way to Brega is free,” said Faraj Joeli, a 20-year-old computer science student turned rebel fighter.

Read more: Libya war - strike against Gaddafi

There was little sign of destruction in the town centre and the few remaining inhabitants who had not fled began emerging from their homes. Rebel fighters drove around firing guns in the air or distributed bread, flour and water to residents.

Rebel fighters celebrate by waving a Kingdom of Libya flag on the outskirts of the town of Ajdabiya (Reuters)

Capturing Ajdabiya, a gateway from western Libya to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and the oil town of Tobruk, was a big morale boost for the rebels after two weeks on the back foot.

Brega

Libyan rebel fighters say they have reached the outskirts of the oil-exporting town of Brega after taking Ajdabiya from Gaddafi’s forces, a rebel spokesman said.

“They are now, as we speak, on the outskirts of the city of Brega,” Colonel Ahmed Bani, a rebel military spokesman, said at a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Brega is 70 km to the west of Ajdabiya.

Bani said the recapture by rebels of Ajdabiya, a gateway from western Libya to Benghazi, meant “the winds of change have now started to blow.”

Misrata

Shelling by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in rebel-held Misrata stopped on Saturday when Western coalition planes appeared in the sky above the city, a rebel told Reuters.

“The shelling has stopped and now the warplanes of allies are above the sky of Misrata. The shelling stopped when the planes appeared in the sky. It seems this is their strategy,” the rebel, called Saadoun, said by telephone.

Pro-Gaddafi forces launched attacks on Misrata on Saturday from the west and the east, Saadoun said earlier, after rebels backed by allied air strikes retook the strategic town of Ajdabiya.

“It seems his (Gaddafi’s) focus now is Misrata,” he said.