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Libya rebels claim control of Tunisian border

News18

Updated: April 21, 2011, 10:52 PM IST
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Libya rebels claim control of Tunisian border
Rebels are holding the Dhuheiba border crossing which could open important supply routes for anti-Gaddafi forces.

Tripoli: Libyan rebels said on Thursday they had control of a post on the Tunisian border, forcing government soldiers to flee over the frontier and possibly opening a new channel for opposition forces in Muammar Gaddafi's bastion in western Libya.

In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, meanwhile, relief workers and medical teams awaited the arrival of a passenger ferry carrying about 1,000 people mostly Libyan civilians and workers from Asia and Africa out of the besieged city of Misrata, the main rebel holdout in Gaddafi's territory.

Also aboard the vessel were the bodies of an Oscar-nominated documentary maker from Britain and an American photographer, who were killed covering clashes on Wednesday.

A day earlier, the ferry arrived in Misrata, delivering food and medical supplies to the beleaguered population.

Rebels appear to be gaining more international support, including plans by Italy, France and Britain to send combat advisers and other nations pledging communications and other equipment under the NATO mission. But Gaddafi's regime fired back with fierce threats if the alliance sends any troops to Libya.

"If NATO comes to Misrata, or any Libyan city, we will unleash hell upon NATO," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters in the capital Tripoli. "We will be a ball of fire. Libya will become one man, one woman, fighting for freedom. We will make it 10 times as bad as Iraq."

The reported capture of the border crossing followed three days of intense fighting outside the desert town of Nalut, about 140 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tripoli, said a rebel leader, Shaban Abu Sitta.

Holding the Dhuheiba border crossing could open important supply routes for anti-Gaddafi forces and give the rebels another foothold in western Libya.

"Rebels are now manning Dhuheiba crossing," said Abu Sitta, who claimed his fighters destroyed 30 army pickup trucks and captured 10 cars and some weapons.

Tunisia's official TAP news agency said Libyan rebels had control of the post and at least 13 Libyan military officers, including two commanders, fled across the border. The report, citing a "high-level" Tunisian military official, said the Libyan officers were detained and the border post was closed.

On the Ionian Spirit ferry part of a maritime lifeline to Misrata Libyan civilians and migrants workers packed the decks, hallways and every other available space.

Jeremy Haslam, a coordinator from the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said the boat has more than 1,000 evacuees including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said the doctor's wife was severely wounded by the shell. He expressed his "deepest condolences for that couple. This is not just a couple, this is what Ukrainian people are showing to humanity to the world."

The group is planning to send another ship to Misrata carrying 500 tons of food and medical supplies. The IOM said it has evacuated more than 3,100 people from Misrata.

First Published: April 21, 2011, 10:52 PM IST
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