Heavy casualties reported in Libya fighting

Sat Jul 16, 2011 7:34pm EDT
 
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In the Western Mountains, where insurgents are trying to push toward Tripoli, heavy fighting erupted on Saturday.

Sustained gunfire and volleys of artillery could be heard from the village of Bir Ayad, 15 km (9 miles) south of the front line at the town of Bir Ghanam.

Rebels at Bir Ghanam hold the high ground on the outskirts of the town, their closest position to Tripoli, about 80 km (50 miles) away.

Ahmed, a rebel fighter in Bir Ayad, said a convoy of about 15 vehicles from Gaddafi's forces tried to approach Bir Ghanam, but the rebels fired at it and the convoy retreated after a about an hour of shooting.

"They were in a column at first but when we started firing they split into groups of three or four vehicles and all of them fled," local rebel commander Fathi Alzintani told Reuters.

ASSAULTS REPELLED

Rebels in the Western Mountains have made progress in recent weeks after repelling assaults by Gaddafi's forces. Their next goal is Garyan, a town that controls the highway south from Tripoli.

But the rebels have been hampered by divisions, ill-discipline and supply problems.

In Misrata, the rebels' main stronghold in the west, six rebel fighters have been killed and four injured in the past 24 hours, hospital staff said.   Continued...