AL UQAYLAH, Libya — With tanks, helicopters and fighter planes, troops loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi attacked rebel troops in the coastal town of Bin Jawwad on Sunday and pushed them east, stalling, for the moment, hopes by the antigovernment fighters of a steady march toward Tripoli, The New York Times reports.
By Monday, rebel forces said they were seeking to regroup but needed reinforcements, according to Mohamad Samir, an army colonel fighting with the rebels, quoted by The Associated Press. News reports on Monday said there had been a new air attack on the rebels at Ras Lanuf, where they had withdrawn after Sunday’s counter-offensive by loyalist forces.
The loyalist attack on Bin Jawwad began at about 9 a.m. on Sunday, said rebel fighters, who had to retreat down the main coastal road under a barrage of artillery shells, missiles and sniper bullets. Outgunned, the rebels fanned out in the desert and fought back, only to be forced to retreat again.
By 9 p.m., the road east from the city was full of fleeing rebel cars, including several pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons. More than a dozen ambulances, ferrying wounded and dead rebel fighters, sped toward a hospital in a nearby town. Ambulance drivers and doctors said at least 10 people had been killed, though they expected that number to rise once they were able to reach Bin Jawwad.
Outside of nearby Ras Lanuf, weary fighters gathered at gas stations, drank milk distributed by volunteers and tore at loaves of bread. Mahmoud Bilkhair, an army second lieutenant fighting with the rebels, sat in his car with other fighters, exhausted and staring out the window.
“We’re trying,” he said. “We’re not advancing. We can’t do anything about it.” But he and other fighters said they would regroup and return to Bin Jawwad.
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