Gaddafi forces repel rebels at Libyan oil town

By Maria Golovnina

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Rebels fighting against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi launched an offensive Sunday to retake the oil town of Brega but were repelled in a battle which killed at least four fighters, rebels and doctors said.

Medics at the al Jalaa hospital in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi reported early Monday having the busiest night in weeks treating the wounded.

They said fighting has intensified after a long period of stalemate on the eastern Libyan front.

At least four rebels were killed in fighting in a location between Brega and Ajdabiyah, rebels said. At least 65 were wounded, doctors at the hospital said late Sunday.

“We attacked them first but they attacked us back. We tried to get to Brega but that was difficult,” Haithan Elgwei, a rebel fighter who had returned from the front with the wounded, said.

“We had 130 fighters. They had more. It was a heavy fight,” he told Reuters as medics rushed the wounded through the hospital’s crowded corridors.

Outside, crowds shouted “The people want the fall of the regime” and fired shots into the air.

Gaddafi’s troops and rebels forces have been deadlocked for weeks between the eastern towns of Ajdabiyah and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega.

“It was quiet for weeks but today is the busiest day in a month or more. Today is very busy. There was a lot of fighting near Brega, a big fight,” Mukhamed Khattab, a doctor in an intensive care unit treating 15 fighters, said.

The total of wounded was not immediately clear because many had been taken to other hospitals, including those in Ajdabiyah. At least one dead body was seen by Reuters in the Benghazi hospital’s autopsy room.

“NATO (aircraft) were covering us from above but Gaddafi troops fired rockets and mortars outside Brega,” Akram, 24, another wounded fighter, said.

Surrounded by his uniformed colleagues and squinting with pain from a wounded arm, he added defiantly:

“We will not retreat. We look forward to taking Tripoli.”