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Libyan Warplanes Pound Rebels at Key Oil Site

Libyan warplanes attacked rebel fighters who hold a key oil complex in the Mediterranean town of Ras Lanuf today, severely wounding civilians and sending residents fleeing eastward in panic, the Los Angeles Times reports. Fighter pilots loyal to embattled dictator Muammar Gaddafi launched a missile at a pickup truck, seriously injuring an entire family trying to escape the violence. A father, mother, grandmother and three children were hospitalized as a result of the attack.

Residents had been awakened at 4AM and ordered to leave the area due to imminent government airstrikes. Most complied; cars packed with essential goods like food, water and television sets clogged the eastbound lanes of the coastal highway leading toward Benghazi. Fighters streamed in toward the strategic oil town from the east, bringing anti-aircraft guns and ammunition with them. Although the pro-Gaddafi forces have superior weaponry and are better trained, the rebels say they have something that the government troops lack. “We believe in our cause,” Colonel Mohammed Abaidy, a 53-year-old former Libyan air force officer turned rebel commander, told the L.A. Times.

Although government forces have re-captured the desert town of Bin Jawwad, the rebels talk of re-taking the outpost and then pressing on towards Gaddafi’s hometown of Surt. Thousands of pro-Gaddafi fighters are entrenched there to defend the town, blocking the rebels’ access to the capital city of Tripoli.

The civil war which has engulfed the oil-rich North African country is about to enter its third week.

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