Al Jazeera reports:
US and Egyptian special forces have reportedly been offering covert armed training to rebel fighters in the battle for Libya, Al Jazeera has been told.
An unnamed rebel source related how he had undergone training in military techniques at a “secret facility” in eastern Libya.
He told our correspondent Laurence Lee, reporting from the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi, that he was sent to fire Katyusha rockets but was given a simple, unguided version of the rocket instead.
“He told us that on Thursday night a new shipment of Katyusha rockets had been sent into eastern Libya from Egypt. He didn’t say they were sourced from Egypt, but that was their route through,” our correspondent said.
“He said these were state-of-the-art, heat-seeking rockets and that they needed to be trained on how to use them, which was one of the things the American and Egyptian special forces were there to do.”
The intriguing development has raised several uncomfortable questions, about Egypt’s private involvement and what the arms embargo exactly means, said our correspondent.
The Associated Press reports:
Something new has appeared at the Libyan front: a semblance of order among rebel forces. Rebels without training — sometimes even without weapons — have rushed in and out of fighting in a free-for-all for weeks, repeatedly getting trounced by Moammar Gadhafi’s more heavily armed forces.
But on Friday only former military officers and the lightly trained volunteers serving under them were allowed on the front lines. Some were recent arrivals, hoping to rally against forces loyal to the Libyan leader who have pushed rebels back about 100 miles (160 kilometers) this week.
The better organized fighters, unlike some of their predecessors, can tell the difference between incoming and outgoing fire. They know how to avoid sticking to the roads, a weakness in the untrained forces that Gadhafi’s troops have exploited. And they know how to take orders.
“The problem with the young untrained guys is they’ll weaken us at the front, so we’re trying to use them as a backup force,” said Mohammed Majah, 33, a former sergeant.
“They don’t even know how to use weapons. They have great enthusiasm, but that’s not enough now,” he said.
Majah said the only people at the front now are former soldiers, “experienced guys who have been in reserves, and about 20 percent are young revolutionaries who have been in training and are in organized units.”
The Guardian reports:
The regime of Muammar Gaddafi has initiated a concerted effort to open lines of communication with western governments in an attempt to bring the conflict in the country to an end.
Libya’s former prime minister, Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, told Channel 4: “We are trying to talk to the British, the French and the Americans to stop the killing of people. We are trying to find a mutual solution.”
Although the regime last night rejected a rebel offer of a ceasefire if Gaddafi withdraws his military from Libya’s cities and permits peaceful protests, senior British sources said the Gaddafi government was open to dialogue.
“If people on the Gaddafi side want to have a conversation, we are happy to talk,” one said. “But we will deliver a clear and consistent message: Gaddafi has to go, and there has to be a better future for Libya.”
The regime rejected the rebels’ ceasefire conditions, saying government troops would not leave cities as demanded.
However, signs that the regime was looking to reach out to the west came after the Guardian reported that a meeting had taken place between Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Gaddafi’s influential son Saif al-Islam, and British officials on Wednesday in London. Ismail is a fixer who has been used by the Gaddafi family to negotiate arms deals and has considerable contacts in the west.
The Associated Press reports:
Government forces killed six civilians in the city of Misrata on Saturday in an unrelenting campaign of shelling and sniper fire aimed at driving rebels from the main city they hold in western Libya, medical officials said.
Doctors said that 243 people have been killed and some 1,000 wounded in more than a month and a half of fighting between Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and rebels in Misrata. Most of those slain Saturday were hit by snipers, they said.
One said government forces appeared to be trying to wound civilians.
“The weapons that the Gadhafi brigades use are not meant to prevent movement in the city, but to cause also deformation or paralysis so the suffering of the people endures all their lives,” the doctor told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Simon Tisdall writes:
As the Libya conflict enters its third month, Whitehall is full of whispered talk of secret defections and cloak-and-dagger deals with more “reasonable” elements within the much-weakened Tripoli regime. The embattled sons of Muammar Gaddafi are looking for a way out, and may even be prepared to dump their father to save their own skins – or so the grapevine has it.
Security analysts and diplomatic insiders see things differently. It’s clear, they say, that after weeks of inconclusive conflict, neither side can win a military victory. Without a western ground invasion, the rebels are not strong enough to dislodge Gaddafi. So instead, Britain and the US are increasingly engaged in psychological warfare in the hope of fomenting internal dissension and regime collapse. This campaign includes disinformation about the other side’s intentions.
The revamped approach apparently scored a big success this week with the defection of Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s foreign minister. But two can play at this game. Gaddafi’s most prominent sons, Saif al-Islam and Mutassim, the national security adviser, were also waging their own “war of nerves”, the sources said. They appeared to be calculating that the Nato-led coalition will run out of time, split apart, and forfeit crucial Arab and domestic support.
At least 10 rebels were killed by a coalition air strike on Friday, fighters at the scene said on Saturday, in an increasingly chaotic battle with Muammar Gaddafi’s forces over the oil town of Brega.
The rebel leadership described the deaths as an unfortunate mistake and called for continued air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, who have reversed a rebel advance along the coastal highway linking their eastern stronghold with western Libya.
Hundreds of mostly young, inexperienced volunteers could later be seen fleeing east from Brega toward the town of Ajdabiyah after coming under heavy mortar and machinegun fire.
A contingent of more experienced and better organized rebel units initially held their ground in Brega, but with most journalists forced east, it was unclear whether they had remained inside the town or pulled back into the desert.