PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A cloudy future in Libya for U.S.

President Obama suggests a limited military role for the West, but the lesson of Afghanistan and Iraq is that nothing is certain.

Let's say that the decision to enforce a no-fly, no-drive zone in Libya works. Let's say that the United States, with help from France and Britain and token help from a few Arab states, successfully enforces the no-fly zone and stops Moammar Khadafy from crushing what's left of the Libyan rebellion.

Then what?

The question of what comes next is the one that haunts the decision to try to give space for the rebels to regroup in their fight to take down Khadafy and his oppressive 40-year regime.

When President Obama addressed the issue in a televised address Friday, he emphasized the limited role the West could play. He rightly said that no foreign power could impose democracy in Libya and that America, in any case, would not bring ground troops to the fight.

He rightly said, too, that Khadafy's talk of a cease-fire is only talk unless it means a real pull-back of Libyan troops. But even in the best-case scenario, what's to prevent Khadafy from using a cease-fire as a timeout in which to assert his powers in ways that Western air power can't block?

Even as we send Americans into war again, we know little about the rebels we are trying to help or their goals. We have no answer, at this point, as to what we do if the battle between Khadafy and rebels deteriorates into a prolonged war.

Obama's principal argument for using force in yet another Muslim country is that America and the world cannot stand by while Khadafy fulfills his threat of producing a man- made humanitarian disaster in Libya. But critics are asking what separates Libya's armed reaction to the rebels from those of other countries in the region.

It's not only in Libya that entrenched governments have turned to force. In Bahrain, a country closely allied to America, the government tore down the pearl at Pearl Square, the center of the country's protest movement. In Yemen, an American ally in the fight against terrorism, the government killed dozens of protesters Friday.

There are limits to American power, after all. And there are limits as well to the use of air power. The idea that Khadafy might step down in the face of a no-fly zone or a no-drive zone seems unlikely, but we can hold out hope. We appreciate that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed this intervention for humanitarian reasons. We know that President Bill Clinton has publicly expressed regret for not intervening in Rwanda during the slaughters there.

Secretary Clinton says the Arab League's decision to ask for a no-fly zone was a "game changer." But we worry that Arab support for the bombing of an Arab nation by Western powers may not last much longer than the first photos of civilians killed by those bombs.

Obama said the fight for freedom was the Libyan people's fight. He's right. But if our mission is not to overthrow Khadafy, what is the mission? What constitutes victory?

We've learned, again, in Afghanistan and Iraq how much easier it is to get into a war than it is to get out of one. We've learned, too, that what happens after the initial fighting has ended is at least as important as what came before. But the decision to join with our partners in Libya makes us wonder if we've learned these lessons at all.

 

Russian wheat harvest problems

Russian wheat harvest problems - Photo Gallery - KansasCity.com

 Scenes of the future, Global Warming on the march, Rice harvest in the Tropics will be decimated, and hunger will worsen.  In this Saturday, July 31, 2010, file photo a field of unidentified cereals burning near the town of Voronezh some 500 km (294 miles) south of Moscow, after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. A severe drought destroyed one-fifth of the wheat crop in Russia, the world's third-largest exporter, and now wildfires are sweeping in to finish off some of the fields that remained.

Photo: Protesters in Egypt


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"The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." So spoke candidate Barack Obama in 2007. As president, Obama now seems to have changed his mind, but we think the candidate had the better argument.

The U.S. attack on Libya is one of the most ill-defined operations since President Reagan sent troops into Lebanon, but there is very little doubt that it amounts to an act of war and not merely a mission of humanitarian protection.

U.S. forces are targeting the regime's defenses, planes and even troops, even as the president emphasizes that their main goal is to protect civilians from Col. Moammar Khadafy's forces.

However, the Constitution is very clear about which branch of government may "declare war." It's Congress, not the president.

Granted, not every president in the past has sought authorization for hostilities, especially in conflicts of short duration. And it's possible our intervention in Libya will turn out to be brief. The president has promised the U.S. will turn over control of military operations to other countries within a "matter of days, not weeks," while Gen. Carter Ham, the commander in the region, said non-U.S. pilots flew the "overwhelming" share of missions Monday.

But none of that suggests U.S. participation is about to end. Given the lack of clear goals, our forces could be conducting missions for weeks, months or longer. We think a commitment of that nature warrants explicit congressional approval — even if it has to be granted after the fact.

This nation's founders wisely sought to limit the power of a single elected leader to wage war, and their logic is no less relevant today.

Despite occasional exceptions, most major military entanglements since World War II have enjoyed congressional approval, even if without a direct declaration of war. After Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing "the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States" — paving the way for the invasion of Afghanistan.

And congressional approval of force against Iraq, passed in October 2002, was even clearer in intent.

It's true that President Clinton failed to seek approval for a bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999 — prominent Republicans were vocally hostile toward the policy — but a dubious precedent is hardly reason to repeat a mistake.

The attacks in Libya have reportedly turned the tide near Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in eastern Libya, according to Ham. But the general also explained that the allied mission was not to "support opposition forces if they engage in offensive operations."

Does that mean the U.S. would accept an effective partition if Khadafy doesn't step down or the rebels mount a successful offensive? And if so, how long might we have to function as a protective shield for the fledgling nation in eastern Libya? The U.S. enforced a no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein for more than a decade.

The president's decision to bomb Libya and help establish a no-fly zone has injected the U.S. into yet another conflict in a Muslim nation at a time when we still maintain huge commitments in two others. U.S. resources are badly strained after a decade of military operations in Afghanistan and years of difficult warfare in Iraq. Now we fear the U.S. might get mired in protracted civil war in Libya.

Such an open-ended commitment demands the broadest political support — which only congressional action can provide.

Read more: Editorial: An act of war without consent - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_17667397#ixzz1HM3LEo9S
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

 


On March 19, US and British cruise missiles joined with French and other NATO combat aircraft in Operation Odyssey Dawn/Operation Ellamy, a neo-imperialist bombing attack under fake humanitarian cover against the sovereign state of Libya. Acting under UN Security Council resolution 1973, US naval forces in the Mediterranean on Saturday night local time fired 112 cruise missiles at targets which the Pentagon claimed were related to Libya’s air defense system. But Mohammed al-Zawi, the Secretary General of the Libyan Parliament, told a Tripoli press conference that the “barbaric armed attack” and “savage aggression” had hit residential areas and office buildings as well as military targets, filling the hospitals of Tripoli and Misurata with civilian victims. Zawi accused the foreign powers of acting to protect a rebel leadership which contains notorious terrorist elements. The Libyan government repeated its request for the UN to send international observers to report objectively on events in Libya.

The attacking forces are expected to deploy more cruise missiles, Predator drones, and bombers, seeking to destroy the Libyan air defense system as a prelude to the systematic decimation of Libyan ground units. International observers have noted that US intelligence about Libya may be substandard, and that many cruise missiles may indeed have struck non-military targets.

Libya had responded to the UN vote by declaring a cease-fire, but Obama and Cameron brushed that aside. On Saturday, France 24 and al-Jazeera of Qatar, international propaganda networks hyping the attacks, broadcast hysterical reports of Qaddafi’s forces allegedly attacking the rebel stronghold of Bengazi. They showed a picture of a jet fighter being shot down and claimed this proved Qaddafi was defying the UN by keeping up his air strikes. It later turned out that the destroyed plane had belonged to the rebel air force. Such coverage provided justification for the bombing attacks starting a few hours later. The parallels to the Kuwait incubator babies hoax of 1990 were evident. Qaddafi loyalists said Saturday’s fighting was caused by rebel assaults on government lines in the hopes of provoking an air attack, plus local residents defending themselves against the rebels.

At the UN vote, the Indian delegate correctly pointed out that the decision to start the war had been made on the basis of no reliable information whatsoever, since UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon’s envoy to Libya had never reported to the Security Council. The bombing started shortly after a glittering Paris summit “in support of the Libyan people,” where Sarkozy, Cameron, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Harper of Canada and other imperialist politicians had strutted and postured.

Token contingents from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were supposed to take part in the attack, but were nowhere to be seen, while some Arab states were expected to provide financial support. The minimum estimated cost of maintaining a no-fly zone over Libya for one year is estimated in the neighborhood of $15 billion – enough to fund WIC high-protein meals for impoverished US mothers and infants for two years.

From no-fly zone to regime change

The alleged purpose of the bombing was to establish a no-fly zone and to protect a force of CIA-sponsored Libyan rebels composed of the Moslem Brotherhood, elements of the Libyan government and army subverted by the CIA (including such sinister figures as former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and former Interior Minister Fattah Younis), and monarchist Senussi tribesmen holding the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk. But twin Friday ultimatums by President Obama and British premier Cameron, plus a speech by Harper, made clear that the goal was the ouster of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and regime change in the North African oil-producing nation, whose proven reserves of crude are the largest on that continent.

Prospects for military success are uncertain, despite the apparent NATO preponderance. No clear military objective has been articulated, and disagreements about the scope of the war are likely. If Qaddafi’s tanks and infantry are engaged in house to house battles with the rebels in cities like Bengazi and Tobruk, it will be hard for NATO to bring its air superiority to bear without massacring large numbers of civilians.

From hope and change to shock and awe

While Obama’s action is being widely compared to the Bush-Cheney 2003 attack on Iraq, parallels to the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco are also strong. In that instance, a force of anti-Castro Cubans organized by the CIA was militarily defeated in an attempt to take over Cuba, resulting in calls from Allen Dulles to President Kennedy for air strikes and a ground invasion. Kennedy rejected those calls and fired the Dulles CIA leadership. Obama, faced by the military collapse of a CIA force in Libya, has ordered such bombing, opening a second phase of the present US debacle.

The rebel region of Cerenaica has long been the scene of Moslem brotherhood agitation against Qaddafi, much of it fomented from across the Egyptian border with US assistance. After the failed 1995 assassination attempt against the Libyan leader reported by MI-5 defector David Shayler (for which MI-6 paid £100,000 to an al Qaeda subsidiary), eastern Libya was the scene of a protracted Islamist insurrection. In the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt, it has become clear that the CIA has stipulated a worldwide alliance against existing Arab governments with the reactionary and oligarchical Muslim brotherhood, which was created by British intelligence in Egypt in the late 1920s. Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), another CIA front, is trumpeting full support for the rebels on its website.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was first to recognize the Benghazi rebels, calling for a no-fly zone and air strikes a week earlier, seconded by British Prime Minister Cameron. Until about 18 hours before the UN vote, top US officials like Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates were stressing the difficulties of a no-fly zone. French Foreign Minister Juppé lamented that it was already too late for a no-fly zone. Then, the US abruptly demanded a no-fly zone plus a blank check for aerial bombing. Diplomatic observers are puzzled by Obama’s turnaround. Was he being blackmailed by the British and the French, the same imperialist coalition that invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal back in 1956? Because of Obama’s decision, the US is now at war with a fourth Moslem nation after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the simmering conflict is threatening to escalate into the open at any time in the wake of the scandal around CIA contractor Ray Davis, accused by the Pakistanis as a terrorist controller.

The Arab League, surprising many analysts, had voted unanimously for a no-fly zone over Libya. The African Union, by contrast, has resolutely opposed foreign intervention. Western diplomats have discounted the AU position, giving rise to suspicions of racism. These are reinforced by reports that the anti-Qaddafi rebels have lynched a number of black Africans, claiming that they were mercenaries hired by Qaddafi.

Interference in Libyan internal affairs violates UN Charter

Diplomatic observers were shocked by the sweeping resolution passed by the Security Council, which allows “all necessary measures” to be used against Libya. The United Nations Charter strictly limits Chapter 7 military actions to threats to international peace and security, which Libya has never represented, but rules out interference in internal affairs of member states. The pretext cited in this case was the protection of defenseless civilians, but it is clear that the rebels constitute an armed military force in their own right. Since no state can be an aggressor on its own territory, the Security Council resolution stands in flagrant violation of the UN Charter. Russia, China, Brazil, Germany, and India abstained. The resolution contains an arms embargo against Libya which the US is already violating by arming the rebels through Egypt.

Among US officials demanding aggression, UN ambassador Susan Rice, Samantha Power of the National Security Council, and Secretary of State Clinton have shown that they are as bellicose as any neocon of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz school.

The Libyan Air Force has 13 airbases and some 374 combat capable aircraft, many of them obsolete. Military observers will be watching the performance of Qaddafi’s air defenses, thought to be based largely on older Russian SAMs. But Qaddafi also has mobile and hand-held surface to air missiles. During a 1986 bombing raid on Tripoli aimed at killing Qaddafi, the US lost one F-111 to Libyan fire. The Libyan Defense Ministry has warned that Libya would retaliate against incursions by striking at air and maritime traffic over the central Mediterranean. In 1986, Libya fired two Scud missiles at the US Coast Guard station on the Italian island of Lampedusa, but both missed. Whether Qaddafi has used his immense oil revenues to procure more capable modern anti-ship missiles of Russian design is another question that may be answered soon. A further problem for the aggressors is the March 19 supermoon, which will illuminate the night sky for several days; the preferred time for air attacks is the dark of the new moon.

The propaganda choreography of the current aggression, designed to mask Obama’s warmonger role, requires the right-wing leaders of Britain and France, the Suez 1956 partners, to take the lead. Obama has assumed a low profile, not attending then Paris conference, not making a formal Oval Office address to the American people, and letting the French attack first. Obama is visiting Brazil. This charade is supposed to placate the anti-US hatred of the Arab street. The result is that the inferior Anglo-French military equipment and command structures may contribute to unpleasant reverses for the aggressors, particularly if Sarkozy’s Napoleonic delusions lead him to meddle in military decisions.

The Panavia Tornados to be deployed by London are obsolete; seven (6 UK, 1 Italian) were shot down by Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War twenty years ago. Eurofighter Typhoons are ultra-modern planes, but they have never been tested in real combat. The troubled French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle flies the Dassault Raffale, also largely untested in combat, plus the accident-plagued 30-year old Super-Étendard. Mirage F1s of various vintages, none recent, are expected. This equipment is vulnerable to attrition by Qaddafi’s countermeasures.

Anglo-American propaganda portrays Qaddafi as a kleptocrat. In reality, Libya is one of the most advanced developing countries, ranking 53 on the UN Human Development Index, making it the most developed society in Africa. Libya ranks ahead of Russia (65), Ukraine (69), Brazil (73), Venezuela (75) and Tunisia (81). The rate of incarceration is 61st in the world, below that of the Czech Republic, and far below that of the United States (1). Longevity has increased by 20 years under Qaddafi’s rule. Qaddafi, while suppressing political challenges, had shared the nation’s oil income better than the rest of OPEC.

US bureaucratic resistance to the imperial overstretch involved in a war with Libya on top of the three existing conflicts may also have been overcome thanks to the activation of pro-British networks in the US government. If so, this would repeat a long-established pattern. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher claimed to have performed an emergency “backbone implant” on George H.W. Bush, convincing him to retake Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. In 1999, Tony Blair pressed for the bombing of Serbia and then for a ground invasion; Clinton wisely declined at least the latter. In September 2001, Blair helped convince Bush the younger to use the 9/11 attack as a pretext for an attack on Afghanistan.

The purpose of this attack, in the context of the CIA’s spring 2011 campaign of putsches, palace coups, color revolutions, and people power insurrections, is to cripple the ability of US client states to seek alternative arrangements through alliances with Russia, China, Iran, and other states. The CIA onslaught takes the form of an attack on the nation state itself. In 2008, Serbia was partitioned. This year, Sudan is being carved in two, while Yemen is increasingly likely to face the same fate. The UN resolution of Libya mentions Bengazi specifically, indicating the clear intent of partitioning and balkanizing this nation along an east-west division. Other countries can expect similar treatment. It is time to end the destructive cycle of color revolutions before one of them turns into a civil war in a country like Belarus, where an internal clash could easily turn into a large-scale confrontation between Russia and NATO.

 

SAS 'Smash' squads on the ground in Libya to mark targets for coalition jets

SAS teams are on the ground in Libya with orders to pinpoint and destroy Colonel Gaddafi’s weapons.
Dozens of the crack troops have been operating behind enemy lines to identify targets for bombing raids.
Highly-trained units, known as ‘Smash’ teams for their prowess and destructive ability, have carried out secret reconnaissance missions to provide up-to-date information on the Libyan armed forces.

 

Air strike: SAS units have carried out secret reconnaissance missions to provide up-to-date information on the Libyan armed forces

LOCKERBIE BOMBER 'TAKEN TO SAFETY'

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has been moved out of his home in Tripoli.

The 58-year-old has been regarded as a hero since his release from jail in 2009.

A Libyan government source reportedly said: ‘We know targets are already being worked out by the West, and Brother al-Megrahi is certain to be high on the list.’

Yesterday police and armed soldiers were still visible around al-Megrahi’s home in the New Damascus district of Tripoli, but neighbours confirmed he had been moved.

‘The government does not want him here – it is too dangerous,’ said one.  Al-Megrahi is the only man to have been convicted over the bombing, which killed all 259 passengers and crew on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 and 11 people in Lockerbie in December 1998.

He was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds when he was said to have just months to live with prostate cancer.

His longevity has been a source of embarrassment to the Scottish government since.

It is understood the soldiers have reported the location of airfields, supply routes, radar stations and Libya’s anti-aircraft defence batteries.

This intelligence was used by British defence chiefs to help RAF Tornado fighters and the Royal Navy’s submarine in the Mediterranean, HMS Triumph, deliver devastating strikes.

Combined with air and space reconnaissance, their undercover operations have bolstered the Coalition’s mission to destroy the tyrant’s air defence systems and impose a no-fly zone.

A senior defence source confirmed that there are special forces operating in Libya and that more could be sent.

More...

The source said: ‘What is ruled out? An invasion. What is not ruled out? Everything else.

‘You want to have men on the ground doing laser targeting and reconnaissance, gathering intelligence about the situation and updating the target list.

‘The other point is that if one of our planes gets shot down you have to send people in to get them out.’

The British soldiers are thought to have been on the ground for more than three weeks with Special Operations forces from other countries.

These troops on the ground use a process called ‘painting a target’ to pinpoint a site to be attacked. A laser beam from a portable device is bounced off a building or military installation from a few hundred yards.

 

Reversal of fortune: A rebel fighter shouts 'Allahu Akbar!' (God is the greatest!) in front of a burning vehicle belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces

 

Sortie: Intelligence gathered by special forces has been used by British defence chiefs to help RAF Tornado fighters deliver devastating strikes

These troops on the ground use a process called ‘painting a target’ to pinpoint a site to be attacked. A laser beam from a portable device is bounced off a building or military installation from a few hundred yards.

This is detected by the aircraft or a missile sensor, which then deploys the weapon.

The special forces have also been trying to discover the whereabouts of the Libyan army’s most potent anti-aircraft weapons.

Libya has more than 216 ground-to-air missiles, with the majority deployed around Tripoli.

Despite dating back to the 1980s, the Russian-made SA5A ‘Gammon’ long-range system can fire missiles between 150 and 200 miles, far enough to hit targets across the Mediterranean.

It is capable of shooting down commercial airliners, a chilling threat made by Gaddafi after the international community secured UN-backed military action to rein in the despot. If switched on, the system can be identified by warplanes with electronic counter-measures.

But Gaddafi is thought to have hidden the firepower to prevent its detection.

SAS soldiers are also hoping to find arms dumps containing some of Libya’s 400-plus SA-7 ‘Grail’ portable anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles.

A Western intelligence briefing note warned that British jets carrying out bombing and strafing runs below 15,000ft were vulnerable to the weapons.

The danger posed to state-of-the-art warplanes by ageing missile launchers was highlighted in 1999 when a U.S. F-117 stealth bomber was brought down over Serbia.

The SAS units will be called on to help in case Western jets are shot down. They are also co-ordinating a search with rebel forces for British nationals in Libya.

Members of the Special Boat Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment are also operating behind enemy lines in Libya, special forces sources said.

 

Destroyed: An elderly rebel fighter gestures in front of a destroyed tank belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces in Benghazi.

 

"Defence secretary Liam Fox today confirmed that a British diplomatic team is in Libya talking to rebel forces." -'SAS unit 'held by Libyan rebels'', The Independent, 6 March 2011

According to the Wikipedia site 'a civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state' which seems to be a pretty accurate description of events in Libya as they unfold. The problem is identifying who is contesting for state power as there seems to be no single group in charge of the opposition.

One group wants no outside interference whatsoever (the opposition National Libyan Council?), another (the Libyan Revolutionary Council?), led apparently by the former justice minister (according to an interview on Channel 4 News 04/3/11), wants air strikes and a no-fly zone, in other words invasion.

And this goes to the very heart of events as it's impossible to know who the opposition is or what it is that they want aside from Ghadafi's removal. Reports carried in the MSM reveal what looks like rag-tag groups of quite heavily armed men, a far cry from the unarmed masses that rose up in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.

Thus at this critical point in time, we have to firstly wait and see if Ghadafi prevails (not an impossibility if the opposition can't get its act together without outside assistance). If he does, it opens up an entirely new can of worms. Having compared Ghadafi to Hitler with the West demanding he be investigated for alleged war crimes, the Empire has backed itself into a corner. Under these circumstances, a 'no-fly zone' would be a distinct possibility, disastrous though it would be.

It's a tricky situation for the Empire's strategists. What to do? The best approach would be covert assistance, arms, logistics and intel along with sanctions and international isolation (already in place), thus echoing Hillary Clinton's words about not 'being seen as interfering'.

Coup or insurrection? The more we learn about how the 'insurrection' in Libya unfolded the more it appears that behind the demonstrations a coup was being launched. Nothing else explains the overnight appearance of weapons including attacks on arms depots and military installations accompanied by well-timed rumours of atrocities being committed by Ghadafi's air force and 'African mercenaries'.[1]

As has been pointed out elsewhere, Libya is not a poverty-stricken country, there is no mass unemployment, it has a decent health and education infrastructure so economics doesn't seem to be the major source of discontent.

"It was also under Gaddafi, and with oil money, that Libya attained the highest per capita income among African states. However, there is now a campaign in the western press to belie this, and to paint a picture of widespread unemployment, gaping social inequality and poverty among the Libyan people. Indeed, neo-liberal reforms ushered in recent years have resulted in inequality, with social programs and subsidies for the poor being cut, and the country's oil wealth increasingly being given to foreign corporations. The CIA is now even trying to pass off alleged "studies" showing that most Libyans are surviving on less than USD$2.00 per day. However, such "studies" have no credibility, considering that Libya remains a favorite among expatriate workers in the Middle East, given the relatively higher pay and better working terms in Libyan work sites." -- 'US - NATO Threats to Libyan Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity', by Antonio E. Paris, Global Research 4 March, 2011

As to Ghadafi's autocratic rule, does this justify yet another invasion? Surely this is something the Libyans have to sort out for themselves, it doesn't need the West interfering under the pretext of humanitarian this or that, not after it's backed the regime since Ghadafi switched sides. So what prompted such an apparently instantaneous revolt? This is where it gets murky.

Clearly the Ghadafi regime has a pretty shaky grip on things when elements of its own military and of the state cannot be relied on. The common theory being put around is that Ghadafi was scared of having a powerful army as a potential rival but if so, how come he armed it to the teeth with all the weaponry the West could sell him? And by some accounts he has 50-70,000 loyal security forces to call on. And of course, a Western-supplied air force, thus the call for a 'no-fly zone', itself a declaration of war should it be enacted.

The most likely explanation is some kind of power struggle within the ruling elite aided by elements of the military/security forces that capitalized on popular discontent to escalate the confrontation from day one. So for example, in the early days of the revolt it's not clear which side fired the first shots but clearly from the very beginning both sides were using arms.

Does Western media intervention actually dictate the course of events in Libya?

The Western media's role is central as to how events have not only been portrayed but in turn have progressed and it's a moot point as to whether it's the state propaganda machine or the MSM that initiated it, they work in lock-step with each other. Rumour becomes 'news' and the 'news' triggers responses that set in motion a chain events that have the air of inevitability about them.

The media's role as events in Libya unfolded has followed the predictable pattern we have seen elsewhere; in Georgia, Operation Cast Lead and the attack on the Mavi Marmara.

The 'eccentric', 'unpredictable' and 'unstable' Ghadafi is of course the ideal stereotype for the full treatment in the MSM made all the more so by the interviews he gave to the Western media where he accused 'al-Qu'eda' of being behind the uprising (apparently the West can haul out 'al-Qu'eda' any time they need it as a convenient culprit but Ghadafi can't).

Thus having demonized Ghadafi (assisted by the new allegation that he personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing and how convenient was that!), the next stage is to turn what is now civil war with both sides armed and locked in conflict into yet another 'human rights' catastrophe deserving of the Empire's largesse.

And reports indicate a massive buildup by the US, the UK and others off the coast of Libya as well as the UK's SAS actually in Libya (one report alleges that Libyan rebels have captured SAS soldiers).

"Defence secretary Liam Fox today confirmed that a British diplomatic team is in Libya talking to rebel forces." -- 'SAS unit 'held by Libyan rebels'', The Independent, 6 March 2011

So intervention in the internal affairs of Libya is already underway and the longer the civil war continues the greater the odds that the West will escalate its intervention, especially if it looks like Ghadifi can succeed in crushing the opposition.


Note

1. There is only one, unverified source for this allegation. See 'Dogs of War' Fighting for Gaddafi', all.africa.com, 25 February, 2011. But buried in the piece it mentions private security contractors hired by Western corporations working in Libya as being the likely source of the 'Kenyan mercenaries' story. The allegation, by Air Force Major Rajib Feytouni became the source of a Guardian and subsequent stories. Google Rajib Feytouni and you'll get the same single source rehashed this way and that.

Another, this time an Israeli source alleges that 50,000 African mercenaries have been hired by Ghadafi through an Israeli company, Global CST. Watch the PressTV video here. But one would have thought that were this story true it would be headline news?

In addition, the 'African mercenaries' rumour has resulted in the deaths of many Black people in Libya who may or may not be Libyans, let alone mercenaries.

And a sign where this all heading can be gleaned from the following:

"[T]he United States has demanded the UN Security Council (UNSC) to remove the provisions of charging mercenaries with war crimes in the killing of Libyan civilians."

Just in case no doubt some of its own mercenaries get caught. It's a replay of the US position over the use of mercenaries in Iraq where one of the first acts of overlord Bremer was to pass a 'law' to make it impossible to prosecute 'private contractors' for their actions.

The world is facing a very unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation in North Africa and the Middle East. What began as a memorable, promising, relatively nonviolent achievement of New Politics - the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - has morphed very swiftly into a recrudescence of old habits: America, already mired in two decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sporadic air attacks in Yemen and Somalia, now, bombing yet another Third World Country, in this case Libya.


USS Barry launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in the Mediterranean Sea, March 19, 2011. US government handout

The initially stated aim of this bombing was to diminish Libyan civilian casualties. But many, senior figures in Washington, including President Obama, have indicated that the US is gearing up for a quite different war for regime change, one that may well be protracted and could also easily expand beyond Libya.1 If it does expand, the hope for a nonviolent transition to civilian government in Tunisia and Egypt and other Middle East nations experiencing political unrest, may be lost to a hard-edged militarization of government, especially in Egypt. All of us, not just Egyptians, have a major stake in seeing that that does not happen.

The present article does not attempt to propose solutions or a course of action for the United States and its allies, or for the people of the Middle East. It attempts rather to examine the nature of the forces that have emerged in Libya over the last four decades that are presently being played out.

To this end I have begun to compile what I call my Libyan Notebook, a collection of relevant facts that underlie the present crisis. This Notebook will be judgmental, in that I am biased towards collecting facts that the US media tend to ignore, facts that are the product in many instances of investigative reporting that cuts to the heart of power relations, deep structures, and economic interests in the region including the US, Israel, and the Arab States as these have played out over the last two decades and more. But I hope that it will be usefully objective and open-ended, permitting others to draw diverse conclusions from the same set of facts.2

I wish to begin with two ill-understood topics: I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition, and II. Where Are the Libyan Rebel Arms Coming From?
I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition

1) Historically:

"If Muammar Al Gaddafi behaved paranoid, it was for good reason. It wasn't long after he reached the age of 27 and led a small group of junior military officers in a bloodless coup d'état against Libyan King Idris on September 1, 1969, that threats to his power and life emerged - from monarchists, Israeli Mossad, Palestinian disaffections, Saudi security, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO), British intelligence, United States antagonism and, in 1995, the most serious of all, Al Qaeda-like Libyan Islamic fighting group, known as Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya. The Colonel reacted brutally, by either expelling or killing those he feared were against him."3


Gaddafi and Nasser in a 1969 Photo. Getty image

2) National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL)

"With the aim of overthrowing Libyan strongman Muammar Khadafy, Israel and the U.S. trained anti-Libyan rebels in a number of West and Central African countries. The Paris-based African Confidential newsletter reported on January 5th, 1989, that the US and Israel had set up a series of bases in Chad and other neighboring countries to train 2000 Libyan rebels captured by the Chad army. The group, called The National Front for the Salvation of Libya, was based in Chad."4

"US official records indicate that funding for the Chad-based secret war against Libya also came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq. The Saudis, for instance, donated $7m to an opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (also backed by French intelligence and the CIA). But a plan to assassinate Gadafi and take over the government on 8 May 1984 was crushed. In the following year, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Gadafi but President Mubarak refused. By the end of 1985, the Washington Post had exposed the plan after congressional leaders opposing it wrote in protest to President Reagan."5

"The FNSL [National Front for the Salvation of Libya] was part of the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition held in London in 2005, and British resources are being used to support the FNSL and other 'opposition' in Libya.... The FNSL held its national congress in the USA in July 2007. Reports of 'atrocities' and civilian deaths are being channeled into the western press from operations in Washington DC, and the opposition FNSL is reportedly organizing resistance and military attacks from both inside and outside Libya."6

3) National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO),

"The main group leading the insurrection is the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition which includes the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). The NFSL, which is leading the violence, is a U.S.-sponsored armed militia of mostly Libyan expatriates and tribes opposed to al-Qaddafi."7

4) Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, LIFG)

"The LIFG was founded in 1995 by a group of mujahideen veterans who had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Upon their return to Libya they grew angry about what they viewed as the corruption and impiety of the Libyan regime and formed the LIFG to create a state that would show what they believed to be the true character of the Libyan people.
The most significant LIFG attack was a 1996 attempt to assassinate Gadhafi; LIFG members led by Wadi al-Shateh threw a bomb underneath his motorcade. The group also stages guerilla-style attacks against government security forces from its mountain bases. Although most LIFG members are strictly dedicated to toppling Gadhafi, intelligence reportedly indicates that some have joined forces with al-Qaida to wage jihad against Libyan and Western interests worldwide. ....
As recently as February 2004, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that "one of the most immediate threats [to U.S. security] is from smaller international Sunni extremist groups that have benefited from al-Qaida links. They include ... the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."
8

"In recent days Libyan officials have distributed security documents giving the details of Sufiyan al-Koumi, said to be a driver for Osama bin Laden, and of another militant allegedly involved in an "Islamic emirate" in Derna, in now-liberated eastern Libya. Koumi, the documents show, was freed in September 2010 as part of a "reform and repent" initiative organised by Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son....
The LIFG, established in Afghanistan in the 1990s, has assassinated dozens of Libyan soldiers and policemen. In 2009, to mark Gaddafi's 40 years in power, it apologised for trying to kill him and agreed to lay down its arms. MI6 [British Intelligence] has been accused in the past of supporting it. Six LIFG leaders, still in prison, disavowed their old ways and explained why fighting Gaddafi no longer constituted "legitimate" jihad. Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, another freed LIFG member, denied the official claims. "Gaddafi is trying to divide the people," he told al-Jazeera. "He claims that there is an Islamist emirate in Derna and that I am its emir. He is taking advantage of the fact that I am a former political prisoner."
Derna is famous as the home of a large number of suicide bombers in Iraq. It is also deeply hostile to Gaddafi. "Residents of eastern Libya in general, and Derna in particular, view the Gaddadfa (Gaddafi's tribe) as uneducated, uncouth interlopers from an inconsequential part of the country who have 'stolen' the right to rule in Libya," US diplomats were told in 2008, in a cable since released by WikiLeaks.
The last 110 members of the LIFG were freed on 16 February, the day after the Libyan uprising began. One of those released, Abdulwahab Mohammed Kayed, is the brother of Abu Yahya Al Libi, one of al Qaida's top propagandists. Koumi fled Libya and is said to have ended up in Afghanistan working for Bin Laden. Captured in Pakistan, he was handed over to the US and sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2002. In 2009 he was sent back to Libya.9 US counter-terrorist experts have expressed concern that al-Qaida could take advantage of a political vacuum if Gaddafi is overthrown. But most analysts say that, although the Islamists' ideology has strong resonance in eastern Libya, there is no sign that the protests are going to be hijacked by them.10


Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Members released

"Fierce clashes between [Qadhafi's] security forces and Islamist guerrillas erupted in Benghazi in September 1995, leaving dozens killed on both sides. After weeks of intense fighting, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) formally declared its existence in a communiqué calling Qadhafi's government "an apostate regime that has blasphemed against the faith of God Almighty" and declaring its overthrow to be "the foremost duty after faith in God." [3] This and future LIFG communiqués were issued by Libyan Afghans who had been granted political asylum in Britain.... The involvement of the British government in the LIFG campaign against Qadhafi remains the subject of immense controversy. LIFG's next big operation, a failed attempt to assassinate Qadhafi in February 1996 that killed several of his bodyguards, was later said to have been financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-MI5 officer David Shayler. [4] While Shayler's allegations have not been independently confirmed, it is clear that Britain allowed LIFG to develop a base of logistical support and fundraising on its soil. At any rate, financing by bin Laden appears to have been much more important. According to one report, LIFG received up to $50,000 from the Saudi terrorist mastermind for each of its militants killed on the battlefield." [2005]11

"Americans, Britons and the French are finding themselves as comrades in arms with the rebel Islamic Fighting Group, the most radical element in the Al Qaeda network [to bring down Gaddhafi]. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted the risks of the unholy alliance in a congressional hearing, saying that the Libyan opposition is probably more anti-American than Muammar Gaddhafi. A decade ago, this very same delusion of a Western-Islamist partnership in Kosovo, Bosnia and Chechnya ended abruptly in the 9/11 attacks."12

“In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited ‘around 25’ men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are ‘today are on the front lines in Adjabiya.

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters ‘are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,’ but added that the ‘members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader’.

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, ‘including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries’.

Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against ‘the foreign invasion’ in Afghanistan, before being ‘captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan’. He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.

US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.” (“Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links,” Daily Telegraph [London], March 25, 2011)
5) Transitional National Council

"A RIVAL transitional government to the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi looks set to win US and other international support as momentum builds to oust the longtime dictator.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed yesterday that the Obama administration was reaching out to opponents of Colonel Gaddafi. She said the US was willing to offer ‘any kind of assistance' to remove him from power.
Protest leaders who have taken control in Libya's eastern cities claim to have established a transitional "national council" that amounts to rival rule. They have called on the country's army to join them as they prepare for an attack on the capital, Tripoli, where the Libyan leader retains control.
Confident the Libyan leader's 42-year rule was coming to an end, Mrs Clinton said yesterday: ‘We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gaddafi.'"13

6) Facebook

"He [Omar El- Hariri, Chief of Armed Forces for the Transitional National Council] remained under close surveillance by the security forces until Feb. 17, when the revolution started. It was not initiated by prominent figures of the older generation, he said, but began spontaneously when Tunisia and Egypt inspired the youth. ‘Children of Facebook!' he declared, in English, with a broad smile."14

7) Oil

"Libyan rebels in Benghazi said they have created a new national oil company to replace the corporation controlled by leader Muammar Qaddafi whose assets were frozen by the United Nations Security Council.
The Transitional National Council released a statement announcing the decision made at a March 19 meeting to establish the ‘Libyan Oil Company as supervisory authority on oil production and policies in the country, based temporarily in Benghazi, and the appointment of an interim director general" of the company.
The Council also said it "designated the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and the appointment of a governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi."15

Peter Dale Scott's Libyan Notebook

II. Where Are the Libyan Rebel Arms Coming From?

Robert Fisk, "Libya in turmoil: America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels;
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi," Independent, March 7, 2011:

"Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a "day of rage" from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington's highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.

Washington's request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 ....

But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain - even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.

The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi's armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.

Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi's strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato - not least from Republican members of Congress - to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.

US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya's functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi's opponents.

For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi's private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.

Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.


US Awacs monitor Libya

The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission's existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West's lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.

Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi's jet.

An American Awacs aircraft, tail number LX-N90442 could be heard contacting the Malta control tower on Saturday for information about a Libyan Dassault-Falcon 900 jet 5A-DCN on its way from Amman to Mitiga, Gaddafi's own VIP airport.

Nato Awacs 07 is heard to say: "Do you have information on an aircraft with the Squawk 2017 position about 85 miles east of our [sic]?"

Malta air traffic control replies: "Seven, that sounds to be Falcon 900- at flight level 340, with a destination Mitiga, according to flight plan."

But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.

After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.

Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.

If the Saudi government accedes to America's request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.

Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region. "16

"Libya rebels coordinating with West on air assault," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2011

"Reports from the region suggest that the Saudis and Egyptians have been providing arms. Though U.S. officials could not confirm that, they say it is plausible."17

"Egypt Said to Arm Libya Rebels," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2011:

"CAIRO-Egypt's military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington's knowledge, U.S. and Libyan rebel officials said.

The shipments-mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition-appear to be the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters. Those fighters have been losing ground for days in the face of a steady westward advance by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states' unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.

The shipments also follow an unusually robust diplomatic response from Arab states. There have been rare public calls for foreign military intervention in an Arab country, including a vote by the 23-member Arab League last week urging the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

The vote provided critical political cover to Western powers wary of intervening militarily without a broad regional and international mandate. On Thursday evening, the U.N. Security Council voted on a resolution endorsing a no-fly zone in Libya and authorizing military action in support of the rebels.

Within the council, Lebanon took a lead role drafting and circulating the draft of the resolution, which calls for "all necessary measures" to enforce a ban on flights over Libya. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have taken the lead in offering to participate in enforcing a no-fly zone, according to U.N. diplomats.

Libyan rebel officials in Benghazi, meanwhile, have praised Qatar from the first days of the uprising, calling the small Gulf state their staunchest ally. Qatar has consistently pressed behind the scenes for tough and urgent international action behind the scenes, these officials said.

Qatari flags fly prominently in rebel-held Benghazi. After pro-Gadhafi forces retook the town of Ras Lanuf last week, Libyan state TV broadcast images of food-aid packages bearing the Qatari flag.


Anti-Gadhafi fighters in Benghazi

The White House has been reluctant to back calls from leaders in Congress for arming Libya's rebels directly, arguing that the U.S. must first fully assess who the fighters are and what policies they will pursue if they succeeded in toppling Col. Gadhafi. U.S. officials believe the opposition includes some Islamist elements. They fear that Islamist groups hostile to the U.S. could try to hijack the opposition and take any arms that are provided.

The Egyptian weapons transfers began ‘a few days ago' and are ongoing, according to a senior U.S. official. ‘There's no formal U.S. policy or acknowledgement that this is going on,' said the senior official. But ‘this is something we have knowledge of.'

Calls to Egypt's foreign ministry and the spokesman for the prime minister seeking comment went unanswered. There is no means of reaching Egypt's military for comment. An Egyptian official in Washington said he had no knowledge of weapon shipments.

The U.S. official also noted that the shipments appeared to come "too little, too late" to tip the military balance in favor of the rebels, who have faced an onslaught from Libyan forces backed by tanks, artillery and aircraft.

"We know the Egyptian military council is helping us, but they can't be so visible," said Hani Souflakis, a Libyan businessman in Cairo who has been acting as a rebel liaison with the Egyptian government since the uprising began.

"Weapons are getting through," said Mr. Souflakis, who says he has regular contacts with Egyptian officials in Cairo and the rebel leadership in Libya. "Americans have given the green light to the Egyptians to help. The Americans don't want to be involved in a direct level, but the Egyptians wouldn't do it if they didn't get the green light."

Western officials and rebel leaders in Libya said the U.S. has wanted to avoid being seen as taking a leadership role in any military action against Mr. Gadhafi after its invasions of Iraq and Afganistan fueled anger and mistrust with Washington throughout the region.

But the U.S. stated clearly it wants Mr. Gadhafi out of power and has signaled it would support those offering help to the rebels militarily or otherwise.

A spokesman for the rebel government in Benghazi said arms shipments have begun arriving to the rebels but declined to specify where they came from.

"Our military committee is purchasing arms and arming our people. The weapons are coming, but the nature of the weapons, the amount, where it's coming from, that has been classified," said the spokesman, Mustafa al-Gherryani.

The U.S. official said Egypt wanted to keep the shipments covert. In public, Egypt has sought to maintain a neutral stance toward the rebel uprising in Libya. Egypt abstained during the Arab League's vote calling for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone on Mr. Gadhafi, according to people familiar with the internal Arab League deliberations.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian laborers are believed to still be in Libya.

On the other hand, the Egyptian military's covert support for the rebels suggests that it has calculated that Mr. Gadhafi is unlikely to remain in power, at least in the eastern half of the country, and therefore Egypt is eager to begin to build good relations with the rebels.

Rebel forces in the past 24 hours appeared to make some progress fending off pro-Gadhafi forces' assaults and have rolled out new weapons for the first time since the uprising began last month. Among them are rebel tanks that have taken up positions on the front lines in recent days. Rebels also launched fighter-jet attacks on government positions on Wednesday for the first time so far.

The tanks and fighter jets are believed to have been among the weapons seized by rebels from defected units of the Libyan army in the eastern half of the country, but they have received spare parts or trained mechanics from outside the country to help them deploy them, some rebel officials have speculated.
-Sam Dagher and Adam Entous contributed to this article.18

Benjamin Gottlieb, "Egypt Arms Libyan Rebels As Gaddafi's Conquest Continues," NeonTommy Annenberg Digital News, March 17, 2011:

Arms shipments from Egypt's military have begun flowing across the border into Libya with U.S. knowledge, Libyan rebels and U.S. officials said Thursday.

Made up mostly of small arms, such as assault rifles and ammunition, the shipments are the first confirmed reports of an outside government supporting rebel fighters with weapons. Rebels have been loosing ground for days against pro-Gaddafi forces aiming to end the conflict before foreign intervention plans are finalized.

Although the U.N. approved a "no-fly zone" over Libya late Thursday, rebel forces fear that any planned foreign intervention would be too little to late.


No-Fly Zone

The shipment of arms indicated an unusually bold response by an Arab nation intervening in a conflict outside its borders. There have also been rare public decrees for the West to intervene in the conflict - the Arab League voted 23-0 last week encouraging the U.N. to impose the "no-fly zone" over Libya.

In spite of reports of arms flowing across the Egyptian boarder, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Menha Bakhoum told Reuters that Egypt would not be involved in any military intervention in neighboring Libya.

"Egypt will not be among those Arab states. We will not be involved in any military intervention. No intervention period," Bakhoum said.

Bakhoum was responding to comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said Thursday that discussions were on the table regarding Arab involvement in U.S. and European intervention in the conflict.

Clinton has said repeatedly that the U.S. desires involvement from a neighboring Arab nation in any planned intervention.

A Libyan rebel government spokesman in Benghazi, Mustafa al-Gherryani, said rebels have begun receiving arms shipments from neighboring nations, however he declined to reveal their origin.

"Our military committee is purchasing arms and arming our people. The weapons are coming, but the nature of the weapons, the amount, where it's coming from, that has been classified," he said.19

Yoichi Shimatsu, "Mideast Revolutions and 9-11 Intrigues Created in Qatar," New America Media, March 1, 2011

"It may puzzle and perhaps dismay young protesters in Benghazi, Cairo and Tunisia that their democratic hopes are being manipulated by an ultra-conservative Arab elite which has underhandedly backed a surge of militant Islamist radicals across North Africa. Credible U.S. intelligence reports have cited evidence pointing to Qatar's long-running support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and jihadist fighters returning from Afghanistan.

The links to Qatar uncovered by anti-terrorism investigators in the wake of 9-11 need to be reexamined now that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an on-and-off affiliate of Al Qaeda, has seized armories across half of the North African country. Libya's well-stocked arsenals contain high-power explosives, rocket launchers and chemical weapons. LIFG is on the State Department's terrorist list.

Most worrying, according to a U.S. intelligence official cited by CNN, is the probable loss of chemical weapons. The Federation of American Scientists reports that, as of 2008, only 40 percent of Libya's mustard gas was destroyed in the second round of decommissioning. Chemical canisters along the Egyptian border were yet to be retrieved and are now presumably in the hands of armed militants.

After initially letting slip that the earliest Libyan protests were organized by the LIFG, Al Jazeera quickly changed its line to present a heavily filtered account portraying the events as ‘peaceful protests'. To explain away the gunshot deaths of Libyan soldiers during the uprising, the Qatar-based network presented a bizarre scenario of 150 dead soldiers in Libya having been executed by their officers for ‘refusing to fight'. The mysterious officers then miraculously vacated their base disappearing into thin air while surrounded by angry protesters! Off the record, one American intelligence analyst called these media claims an ‘absurdity' and suggested instead the obvious: that the soldiers were gunned down in an armed assault by war-hardened returned militants from Iraq and Afghanistan....
According to a Congressional Research Service report of January 2008, ‘Some observers have raised questions about possible support for Al Qaeda by some Qatari citizens, including members of Qatar's large ruling family. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Qatar's Interior Minister provided a safe haven to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed during the mid-1990s, and press reports indicate other terrorists may have received financial support or safe haven in Qatar after September 11, 2001.'

The national security chief, Interior Minister Abdullah bin Khalid al-Thani, is further mentioned as paying for a 1995 trip by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ‘to join the Bosnia jihad.' The report recalls how after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, FBI officials "narrowly missed an opportunity to capture" the suspect in Qatar. ‘Former U.S. officials have since stated their belief that a high-ranking member of the Qatari government alerted him to the impending raid, allowing him to flee the country.'"

Revolution in the Middle East and Northern Africa

 

Since the beginning of 2011, eight countries across the Middle East and Northern Africa are in some stage of upheaval. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria have all experienced some level of revolt in the new year. Never before has instability been so widespread in the region. We take a look at some of the best photographs of the past two months.

On War: 2011 Revolutions

1

An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

2

In this Feb. 3, 2011 file photo, Egyptian doctors and medics treat an injured suspected pro-government supporter, near Tahrir, or Liberation square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

3

In this Feb. 8, 2011 file photo, Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters shout slogans during a demonstration at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

4

In this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo, anti-government protesters shout slogans as they line up after spending the night in front of the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

5

Egyptian anti-government protesters clean Cairo's Tahrir square on February 12, 2011, a day after President Hosni Mubarak's ouster from 30 years in power. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

6

In this Feb. 2, 2011 file photo, an injured anti-government protester is carried past an armored army vehicle during clashes in Tahrir, or Liberation square, in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

7

In this Feb. 2, 2011 file photo, a supporter of President Hosni Mubarak, on camel, fights with anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abou Zaid, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

8

Bahraini anti-government protesters sleep at Pearl Square in Manama during a demonstration calling for a regime change on February 16, 2011. Thousands of Bahrainis chanted for a change of regime and a "real constitutional monarchy" in the Gulf kingdom as they buried a second protester killed in clashes with police. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Sortie: Intelligence gathered by special forces has been used by British defence chiefs to help RAF Tornado fighters deliver devastating strikesAir strike: SAS units have carried out secret reconnaissance missions to provide up-to-date information on the Libyan armed forces

On War: 2011 Revolutions

9

In this Feb.2, 2011 file photo, stones fly through the air as supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, foreground , fight with anti-Mubarak protesters, rear, standing on army tanks in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali, File)

Reversal of fortune: A rebel fighter shouts 'Allahu Akbar!' (God is the greatest!) in front of a burning vehicle belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces

On War: 2011 Revolutions

10

A Yemeni anti-government protester jumps to throw stones towards a police station during clashes with regime loyalists in central Sanaa on February 17, 2011. At least 12 people were injured and police fired warning shots during the fierce clashes, an AFP reporter said. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

11

Egyptian women shout slogans in Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 during celebrations marking one week after Egypt's long-time president Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office by an unprecedented wave of protests in the Arab world's most populous country. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

12

An anti-government protestor has his bandage inscribed in Arabic: "Down with Mubarak" during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

13

A young Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds her national flag in Cairo's Tahrir square on February 7, 2011 on the 14th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

14

People carry a symbolic coffin of Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, in symbolic funeral ceremony in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptians celebrate at Tahrir Square in Cairo on February 12, 2011 after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and handed power to a junta of senior military commanders. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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An Egyptian woman reads the newspaper after spending the night in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt , Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Cries of "Egypt is free" rang out and fireworks lit up the sky as hundreds of thousands danced, wept and prayed in joyful pandemonium after 18 days of peaceful pro-democracy protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power to the military, ending three decades of authoritarian rule. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Destroyed: An elderly rebel fighter gestures in front of a destroyed tank belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces in Benghazi

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Anti-government protesters continue to celebrate in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt , Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptian soldiers hug each other as others remove the wreckage of a car burned during the uprising at Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular revolt that drove veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak from power, on February 12, 2011. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Egyptians celebrate after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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In this Feb. 6, 2011 file photo, an Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters sleeps on the wheels of a tank at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptians hold a picture of a man killed during the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak at Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 during celebrations marking one week after Mubarak was forced out of office by an unprecedented wave of protests in the Arab world's most populous country. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Bahraini pro-government supporter gathers at the Sunni Muslim al-Fateh mosque in the capital Manama, on February 21, 2011, as thousands of government loyalists thronged the mosque to take part in evening prayer and to support of the Gulf state's monarch, countering the anti-regime turmoil. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Thousands of supporters of Bahrain's Shiite-led opposition demonstrate in Pearl Square in Manama on February 22, 2011, calling for the government's downfall in the largest rally in the Gulf kingdom's capital in more than a week of protests. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Yemeni anti-government protesters are seen through a shattered car windshield during a demonstration calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa on February 23, 2011. Thousands of Yemeni anti-regime demonstrators chanted defiantly after government loyalists shot two of them dead, while eight ruling party MPs resigned over the suppression of protests. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Tunisian woman carries her bags past the Ras Jdir border post between Libya and Tunisia, near the Tunisian city of Ben Guerdane, after leaving Libya on February 23, 2011. Hundreds more Tunisians fled Libya to escape unrest as the government demanded its neighbour stop using force against civilians in a bloody crackdown on protests that has left scores dead. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Libyans shout anti-Kadhafi slogans during a demonstration in the eastern Libyan town of Derna, between Tobruk and Benghazi, on February 23, 2011 amid reports that Moamer Kadhafi's regime has lost vast swathes of Libya's east to an insurrection. (/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A torched government building is pictured in the eastern Libyan town of Derna, between Tobruk and Benghazi, on February 23, 2011 amid reports that Moamer Kadhafi's regime has lost vast swathes of Libya's east to an insurrection. (AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Libyan protesters flash the V for "victory" sign and hold a caricature of leader Moamer Kadhafi during a rally in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 24, 2011 as residents of Libya's dissident-held east, frenzied by a deadly crackdown by Kadhafi's crumbling regime, vowed to march on the capital Tripoli. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Bahraini Shiite anti-government protesters colour a white dove with red paint symbolising the blood of the victims during a protest march from Pearl Square to Manama s old city on February 24, 2011 by hundreds of Shiites carrying seven symbolic coffins in remembrance of the seven people who were killed in police crackdowns since the demonstrations began on February 14. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Libyan policeman who defected mans a checkpoint in the eastern dissident-held Libyan city of Tobruk on February 24, 2011 amid political turmoil and an insurrection against Moamer Kadhafi's regime. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Libya's old national flag flutters as anti-government demonstrators gather for a protest in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 25, 2011. Libya was on edge as forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi's crumbling regime staged a bloody fightback in western towns near Tripoli and the east declared itself free of his iron-fisted rule. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on February 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Moamer Kadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Tens of thousands of anti-government Yemenis demonstrate after the Friday prayers in the capital Sanaa on February 25, 2011 in demand that veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh (picture) steps down. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Bahraini Shiite anti-government protesters chant slogans against the regime during a rally in remembrance of the seven people who were killed in police crackdowns as they march towards Pearl Square in Manama on February 25, 2011. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptian evacuees wait to take the bus after fleeing from Libya, on February 25, 2011, at the Ras Jdir border post, near the Tunisian city of Ben Guerdane. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Libyans hold their country's old national flag as they shout slogans against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi after the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on February 25, 2011. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Libyan anti-regime demonstrators gesture at a burnt police station in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 25, 2011. Libya was on edge as forces loyal to Kadhafi's crumbling regime staged a bloody fightback in western towns near Tripoli and the east declared itself free of his iron-fisted rule. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Libyan demonstrator holds his country's old flag during a protest in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 25, 2011. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Thousands of demonstrators gather at the Kasba in Tunis on Febuary 25, 2011. Tens of thousands of Tunisians rallied to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's transitional government set up after last month's ouster of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. (BORNI Hichem/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Bahraini Shiite anti-government protesters carry a giant national flag on which they signed their names during a rally in remembrance of the seven people who were killed in police crackdowns as they march towards Pearl Square in Manama on February 25, 2011. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Libyan protester burns documents at the ransacked offices of the secret police in Benghazi on February 25, 2011. Euphoria in Libya's second city Benghazi gave way to growing concern that it remains vulnerable to a counter-attack by Moamer Kadhafi's forces. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptian protesters chant next to a poster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration to demand he step down in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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The X-ray scan of a wounded anti-regime demonstrator shows a bullet lodged in his brain while he is nursed at the intensive care unit at a hospital in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 25, 2011. Libya was on edge as forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi's crumbling regime staged a bloody fightback in western towns near Tripoli and the east declared itself free of his iron-fisted rule. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A Libyan protester shows ammunition confiscated from soldiers as another holds his country's old flag in the background in Benghazi on February 25, 2011. Euphoria in Libya's second city Benghazi gave way to growing concern that it remains vulnerable to a counter-attack by Moamer Kadhafi's forces. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Graves of opposition supporters killed during violence in rebel-held Benghazi, Libya, on Feb. 25, 2011. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A truck carries the coffin of an opposition fighter killed during violence in rebel-held Benghazi, Libya, on Feb. 25, 2011. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Weapons seized from the military and handed over from civilians are collected by rebels at the Internal Security Building in Benghazi, Libya, on Feb. 24, 2011. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Protesters standing on a destroyed truck previously used as a barricade celebrate the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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Egyptians celebrate the announcement that President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down in Cairo, on Feb. 11, 2011. After 18 days of civil protest President Mubarak turned over all power to the military, and left Cairo for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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An effigy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hangs from a stoplight amongst protesters on Tahrir Square in Cairo, Feb. 1, 2011. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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A woman watches from an overpass as more members of the Egyptian Army roll into downtown Cairo near Tahrir Square, January 30, 2011. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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In this Jan. 29, 2011 file photo, Egyptians carry an injured protester during clashes with anti-riot police in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

On War: 2011 Revolutions

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In this Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, a man runs from a police water cannon in Cairo, during a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power. (AP Photo, File)

An anti-government demonstrator weeps with joy upon hearing the news of the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. After 18 days of widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has now left Cairo for his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, announced that he would step down.

A young woman stumbles as she tries to carry a large basket of coal as they illegally scavenge at an open-cast mine in the village of Bokapahari in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand where a community of coal scavengers live and work. The contrast between India old and new is nowhere more vivid than among the villages of coal scavengers in eastern India, sitting on an apocalyptic landscape of smoke and fire from decades-old underground coal fires. While India grows ever more middle-class and awash in creature comforts, these villagers risk their lives scavenging coal illegally for a few dollars a day, and come back to homes that at any moment could be swallowed by a fresh fire-induced crack in the earth.

Firefighters battle a wildfire at the rear of a house in the Perth, Australia, suburb of Roleystone. Police said at least 68 homes were lost in the blaze, believed to have been started by sparks from an angle grinder.

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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An anti-government demonstrator weeps with joy upon hearing the news of the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. After 18 days of widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has now left Cairo for his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, announced that he would step down. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A child dresses in traditional imperial costume to pose for photos on an ice park at the Old Summer Palace during the fourth day of Chinese new year in Beijing, China, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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In this Feb. 6, 2011 photo made available Feb. 8, and provided by the Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, Gosnell firefighters battles a wildfire at the rear of a house in the Perth, Australia, suburb of Roleystone. Police said at least 68 homes were lost in the blaze, believed to have been started by sparks from an angle grinder. (AP Photo/FESA, Evan Collis)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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In a Feb. 13, 2011 photo, ballerinas prepare to perform during the Melba's Dance Recital at McAllen Convention Center in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/The Monitor, Delcia Lopez)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A couple waits for a Nile boat cruise at dusk on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Although not a traditional holiday in Egypt, globalization has made Valentine's Day increasingly popular with young urban Cairenes. For many Egyptians, life has slowly begun to return to normal, just days after the overthrow of former President Honsi Mubarak. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A man prepares vegetables to be sold as his baby rests on a crate in a fruits and vegetables stall in a market in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. Egypt's military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A Pakistani vendor holds his balloons while sitting in a Taxi driving along a road in preparation for Valentine's Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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An Afghan woman waits to receive alms in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Despite billions of dollars donated by the foreign countries, Afghanistan remains on the poorest countries in the world, 10 years after the collapse of the Taliban regime. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

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In this Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 photo, a young woman stumbles as she tries to carry a large basket of coal as they illegally scavenge at an open-cast mine in the village of Bokapahari in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand where a community of coal scavengers live and work. The contrast between India old and new is nowhere more vivid than among the villages of coal scavengers in eastern India, sitting on an apocalyptic landscape of smoke and fire from decades-old underground coal fires. While India grows ever more middle-class and awash in creature comforts, these villagers risk their lives scavenging coal illegally for a few dollars a day, and come back to homes that at any moment could be swallowed by a fresh fire-induced crack in the earth. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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An Egyptian volunteer fans away dust as she cleans up garbage and rocks from the street outside the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Egyptian protesters were jubilant Saturday over their success in ousting former President Hosni Mubarak, but many vowed to stay camped in Tahrir Square until they hear "clear assurances" that the military will meet their demands for democracy. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square upon hearing the news of the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. After 18 days of widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has now left Cairo for his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, announced that he would step down. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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An army soldier sits on a armored vehicle as anti-government protesters hold their shoes in the air during a protest in front of the state television building on the Corniche in downtown Cairo, Egypt Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. Mubarak refused to step down or leave the country and instead handed his powers to his vice president Thursday, remaining president and ensuring regime control over the reform process, which stunned protesters demanding his ouster, who waved their shoes in contempt and shouted, "Leave, leave, leave." (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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People gather around a cross shaped by candles placed on jars of honey in the presentation of the Blessed Virgin church in Blagoevgrad on February 10, 2011, during a celebration in honour of St. Haralampi, protector of the beekeepers. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A woman cries as anti-government protesters walk during a candlelight vigil for those killed during the uprising in Tahrir Square on February 9, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. More than two weeks into Egypt's uprising, demonstrators continue to occupy the square, demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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Pakistani Ghull Mohammed, 68, looks on while taking a break from breaking coal in a brick factory on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A Palestinian boy whose family received an evacuation order from the Israeli authorities, plays outside his house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. Jerusalem officials on Monday pushed forward plans to build new Jewish housing in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, drawing swift condemnation from Palestinians who see it as encroaching on land they seek for a future state. (AP Photo/Michal Fattal)

Pictures of the Week: February 14, 2011

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A young Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds her national flag in Cairo's Tahrir square on February 7, 2011 on the 14th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

 

With fierce barrages of tank and artillery fire, Moammar Gadhafi’s loyalists threw rebels into a frantic retreat from a strategic oil port Thursday in a counteroffensive that reversed the opposition’s advance toward the capital of Tripoli and now threatens its positions in the east.

Hundreds of rebels in cars and trucks mounted with machine guns sped eastward on the Mediterranean coastal road in a seemingly disorganized flight from Ras Lanouf as an overwhelming force of rockets and shells pounded a hospital, mosque and other buildings in the oil complex. Doctors and staff at the hospital were hastily evacuated along with wounded from fighting from the past week.

The rout came even as the opposition made diplomatic gains. France became the first country to recognize the rebels’ eastern-based governing council, and an ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy said his government was planning “targeted operations” to defend civilians if the international community approves. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would meet with opposition leaders in the U.S., Egypt and Tunisia.

In Tripoli, Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam vowed to retake the eastern half of the country, which has been in opposition hands since early in the 3-week-old uprising. (AP)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan volunteer carries ammunition on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Thursday, March 10, 2011. Government forces drove hundreds of rebels from a strategic oil port with rockets and tank shells on Thursday, significantly expanding Moammar Gadhafi's control of Libya. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Rebels fire a rocket-propelled grenade at a Libyan air force fighter jet on March 10, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya. Most rebel forces fled the city as government forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi attacked them with heavy shelling and air strikes. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Shrapnels fly through the air as a tank shell explodes near Libyan rebel fighters defending their last position against Moamer Kadhafi's loyalist forces at the north-central key Libyan oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 10, 2011. AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebel fighters try to defend a gate of the north-central key Libyan oil town of Ras Lanuf as Moamer Kadhafi's loyalist forces approach their positions on March 10, 2011, where at least four people were killed and 35 wounded as rebels retreated under continous government rocket and sniper fire. AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan volunteers cry outside a hospital in the eastern town of Brega, Libya, Thursday, March 10, 2011. Government forces drove hundreds of rebels from a strategic oil port with a withering rain of rockets and tank shells on Thursday, significantly expanding Moammar Gadhafi's control of Libya as Western nations struggled to find a way to stop him. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan men look at the dead bodies of two rebel fighters brought out from the battle for the eastern key Libyan oil town of Ras Lanuf March 10, 2011 where troops stormed into as tanks outflanked rebels holding the key oil town, forcing them to retreat east under a hail of rocket fire. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebel fighters wait for news of wounded comrades at the morgue of Brega's hospital where bodies have been brought out from the battle of Ras Lanuf on March 10, 2011 where troops stormed into as tanks outflanked rebels holding the key oil town, forcing them to retreat east under a hail of rocket fire. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Dust and smoke rise from an explosion in Sidra, 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Ras Lanuf, on March 10, 2011, as fighting in eastern Libya has killed at least 400 people and wounded 2,000 since February 17, medics there said. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan youth uses his mobile phone to snap a photo af an unexploded ordnance dropped during an air raid on an emptied apartment block in an alley of the oil rich Llibyan town of Ras Lanuf, March 09, 2011. Once home to a population of tens of thousands people this now ghost city became the front line town of an increasingly violent armed struggle between insurgents and loyalist armed forces of Libya. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A woman looks at photos of men killed under the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Benghazi, Libya, on March 10, 2011. On Thursday, opposition fighters fled from Ras Lanuf under heavy rocket attacks and airstrikes by forces loyal to Gadhafi. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel scans the frontline as a facility burns on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyans with the opposition take cover as planes fly overhead and mortar strikes land nearby as opposition fighters face off in intense battles with forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Opposition fighters weep at the hospital in Ras Lanuf as wounded are brought in from the frontline west of Ras Lanuf where intense battles with forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi were raging in Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Opposition fighters react as the body of one of four comrades is brought out of the hospital dead in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)

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Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi westward towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Smoke burns on the horizon after a day of heavy fighting and shelling between opposition fighters and forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)

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A Libyan rebel fires a rocket propelled grenade at government troops on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebels take cover during a battle with government troops as a facility burns on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fires on a government jet as a facility burns on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel cries out for a comrade injured while fighting government troops on the frontline on March 9, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels battled government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, pushing them back towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel weeps for a comrade injured while fighting government troops on the frontline on March 9, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels battled government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, pushing them back towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A relative of an opposition fighter wounded in combat cries outside a room at Ajdabiya Hospital in Ajdabiya, Libya, on March 9, 2011. The hospital has been receiving opposition fighters from the front lines in towns miles away, and the medical volunteers joining the staff have come from around the region and even as far as the U.S. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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An opposition fighter visits a wounded comrade at Ajdabiya Hospital in Ajdabiya, Libya, on March 9, 2011. The hospital has been receiving opposition fighters from the front lines in towns miles away, and the medical volunteers joining the staff have come from around the region and even as far as the U.S. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Opposition fighter stand on poles to get a better view of continuous shelling during a day of heavy fighting with forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi were raging in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Lynsey Addario/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Opposition fighters during a battle to push west of the town of Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, repulsed a rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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An injured fighter is loaded into a vehicle at the front as opposition fighters face off in intense battles with forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebels take positions while fighting government troops as a facility burns on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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An opposition fighter moves into position to fire a rocket propelled grenade at an incoming jet suspected of being loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi near the town of Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed a rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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The body of a Libyan rebel fighter, who was killed during clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, lies at a clinic in the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011 where many anti-regime fighters retreated after artillery and air strikes from government troops. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter lies on the ground as shells from forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi fall nearby during clashes few kilometers outside the town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011 as heavy black smoke rises from an oil pipe that was hit in a blast. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter struggles to reload his machine-gun during a clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter run for cover as shells explode nearby during a battle with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Mourners react next to the coffin during the funeral for a rebel fighter who was killed fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi near the town of Bin Jawwad, during his funeral in Benghazi, eastern Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Mourners react during the funeral for a rebel fighter who was killed fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi near the town of Bin Jawwad, during his funeral in Benghazi, eastern Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A rebel fighter carries of load of rocket propelled grenades while advancing on the frontline on March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The rebels pushed back government forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi towards Ben Jawat. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A mourner is comforted during the funeral for a rebel fighter who was killed fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi near the town of Bin Jawwad, during his funeral in Benghazi, eastern Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Thousands of protesters wave their old national flag during a an anti-regime rally in the eastern city of Benghazi on March 9, 2011 as rebel fighters broken by government shelling and air strikes fled back to the oil town of Ras Lanuf. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Anti-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi rebel sits at ammunitions boxes, in Ras Lanouf town, eastern Libya, on Wednesday March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. Gadhafi appeared to be keeping up the momentum he has seized in recent days in his fight against rebels trying to move on the capital, Tripoli, from territory they hold in eastern Libya. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Anti-Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi rebel, sit next to a mulitiple rockets launcher as flames rises from a fuel storage facility that attacked during a fighting against pro-Moammar Gadhafi fighters, in Sidr town, eastern Libya, on Wednesday March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. Gadhafi appeared to be keeping up the momentum he has seized in recent days in his fight against rebels trying to move on the capital, Tripoli, from territory they hold in eastern Libya. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter arms his ammunition in front of an ammunition storage wear house in the eastern town of Brega, Libya Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country's oil. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan nurses carry an injured anti-Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi rebel, who was wounded during the fighting against pro-Gadhafi fighters, at a hospital in the town of Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. Libyan warplanes launched at least three new airstrikes Tuesday near rebel positions in the oil port of Ras Lanouf, keeping up a counteroffensive to prevent the opposition from advancing toward leader Moammar Gadhafi's stronghold in the capital Tripoli. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan volunteers sit at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan volunteers cheer as smoke rises from the oil port of Sidr in the background, in the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan volunteers cheer as smoke rises from the oil port of Sirdra in the background, in the eastern town of Ras Lanouf, Libya, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A high-ranking member of the Libyan military flew to Cairo on Wednesday with a message for Egyptian army officials from Moammar Gadhafi, whose troops pounded opposition forces with artillery barrages and gunfire in at least two major cities. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter, who was wounded during clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, is brought to a clinic in the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011 where many anti-regime fighters retreated after artillery and air strikes from government troops. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebel fighters carry a wounded comrade during clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi few kilometers outside the town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011 as heavy black smoke rises from an oil pipe that was hit in a blast. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan MIG fighter jet flies over the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011 before bombing positions of rebel fighters. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebel fighters run for cover as shells explode nearby during a battle with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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Libyan rebel fighters react during clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel fighter scarmbles from a ditch as he carries a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) to reach the battle scene with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A natural gas facility burns after being hit during heavy fighting between opposition fighters and forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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A Libyan rebel is evacuated from the frontline after being wounded in fighting with government troops on March 10, 2011 in Ras Lanuf, Libya. Most rebel forces fled the Ras Lanuf as government forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi attacked them with heavy shelling and airstrikes. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Captured: Libya Fighting Continues

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An opposition fighter prays in the middle of a road during the rebels push west of Ras Lanuf, Libya, March 9, 2011. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi repulsed the rebel push to the west on Wednesday and then counterattacked with airstrikes and increasingly accurate artillery fire on the strategic refinery town of Ras Lanuf, which the rebels have held for several days. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

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