Fuel crisis in Tripoli as battles inch closer to capital

Arab World Materials 18 May 2011 21:03 (UTC +04:00)
Residents in the Libyan capital Tripoli complained of shortages
Fuel crisis in Tripoli as battles inch closer to capital

Residents in the Libyan capital Tripoli complained of shortages of petrol on Wednesday as the battlefronts to oust Moamer Gaddafi from power inch closer the capital.

A witness told the German Press Agency dpa that Tripoli's fuel crisis, which began a month ago, is affecting daily life as a result of sanctions and continued NATO airstrikes.

Residents told dpa just a limited supply of fuel was making its way to the capital, most likely from Turkey. This could not be independently verified.

The opposition website Brnieq reported Wednesday that a shipment of petrol from Turkey is expected to dock next week in the port of Zawiyah, west of Tripoli.

Just east of the capital, rebels are clashing with Gaddafi's forces in the town of Torga, between 150 and 200 kilometres outside of Tripoli.

Eight rebels were killed and 12 wounded in Torga late Tuesday, according to a report by Brnieq.

Torga, which lies just outside of Misurata, is the latest battlefront for rebels trying to push westward towards the capital.

The Libyan strongman retains forces in areas between Misurata and the eastern-rebel held cities of Benghazi and Ajdabiya.

However, Misurata, the country's third largest city located on the northwest coast, and Benghazi, the country's second largest city located in the east, are both under rebel control.

Gaddafi maintains control in Tripoli, the country's most populated city, but his forces are battling to maintain their positions further west, near the border with Tunisia.

Libyan rebels fighting to oust Gaddafi from power made an urgent plea for help in the western Nafusa Mountains of the country on Wednesday.

The rebels said government troops attacked a hospital in the western town of Yefren in the mountain range late Monday.

Gaddafi's forces were using Grad missiles, snipers, and a previously unseen type of mortar, they said.

Three locals and nine fighters were killed late Tuesday in the area, according to the rebels' Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC).

"Gaddafi's forces are currently conducting extremely heavy attacks along the Tunisian border," a statement from the Benghazi-based ITNC said.

Rebels, who are in control of the al-Wazin crossing connecting Libya to Tunisia, fear Gaddafi's forces are gearing up to attack the strategic crossing.

"The Tunisian border is an essential lifeline for the delivery of humanitarian aid, which is now unable to reach civilians in the Nafusa area," the ITNC said.

According to the United Nations, over 44,000 Libyan refugees have crossed into Tunisia, with an estimated 2,500 refugees of different nationalities crossing daily.

On April 21, rebel forces seized control of the town of al-Wazin, about four kilometres from Tunisia, and the Libyan territory leading to the Dahiba border crossing, opening a supply route into the mountains, according to Human Rights Watch.

However, rebels temporarily lost control of the al-Wazin crossing, retaking it in recent weeks, with the armed clashes spilling into Tunisia.

Tunisia threatened on Wednesday to take "strict measures" against Gaddafi's regime after shells fired by Libyan forces landed on Tunisian soil.

Dozens of shells have landed near the border post of Dahiba in southern Tunisia over the past 24 hours, a witness told the German Press Agency dpa.

According to Human Rights Watch, Libyan refugees who have fled to Tunisia in recent weeks said government attacks from the outskirts of the western cities of Nalut, Takut, and Zintan had killed an unknown number of civilians over the last several weeks of fighting.

Shelling from Gaddafi's forces had also damaged mosques, water facilities, homes, and schools in the area.