Libya denies rebel victory claim in Brega oil town

Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:57pm EDT
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By Nick Carey

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Rebel forces have routed most of Muammar Gaddafi's troops in the Libyan oil town of Brega in the biggest boost of their campaign in weeks, spokesmen said on Monday. The government denied the claim.

More than 40 people on both sides were reported killed in fighting over the city since late last week.

The rebels have encircled Brega, an oil export terminal with a refinery which for months marked the eastern limit of Gaddafi's control, said spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah.

But its streets were strewn with landmines, making it hard to secure full control of the area.

"The main body (of Gaddafi's forces) retreated to Ras Lanuf," which lies to the west, he said by telephone from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

However, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that, "our brave soldiers and volunteer soldiers are in Brega in their thousands and control it completely."

"NATO and the rebels have tried to attack Brega for the last five days," he told foreign journalists in the capital Tripoli. "The only way for them to control Brega is to attack it with nuclear bombs."

He said the government had lost 30 soldiers over five days of fighting, but rebels had lost many times more. Abdulmolah said 12 rebels were killed and some 300 wounded on Saturday and Sunday.   Continued...