Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Battle for Gadhafi's Birthplace Commences

Updated 5:20 p.m. est

Elements of the Libyan rebel force reportedly made it within 35 miles of Sirte, but reinforcements around Moammar Gadhafi's hometown pushed them and the rest of their army back today beyond Bin Jawad, according to battlefield reports.

Bin Jawad, about 100 miles east of Sirte, was taken during the insurgents' more than 300-mile sweep over the weekend. The BBC's Nick Springate reports the rebels have lost Bin Jawad, and most have now retreated further east, beyond Ras Lanuf.

Gadhafi's forces, which retreated about 200 miles in one day during the rebel offensive, have regrouped in and around Sirte in an effort to halt the insurgents for a second time this month (in just about the same place where they was stopped the first time, around March 13).

Sirte is believed to be the last major urban battlefield until Misurata to its west, where the Eastern Libyan rebel army would link up with the insurgent force fighting there and then band together for the march toward Tripoli.

It may take a while for that scenario to play out, if at all. The rebels remain in need of armor and anti-tank weapons to defeat Gadhafi's tanks and artillary, but there was no movement on that today in London where the coalition nations met.

There are also indications that civilians loyal to Gadhafi, many believed to be from the Libyan dictator's own Qadhadhfa tribe, are armed and ready to fight a street-to-street campaign. That type of warfare would likely make the march west even more difficult, as well as threatening the safety of innocent civilians in Sirte.

end update

The battle for Sirte has been joined, and as predicted the fight for the city where Moammar Gadhafi was born looks to be bloody and a bit more prolonged than the engagements of the past few days.

The rebel sweep across the coastal highway is stalled tonight in the desert 35 miles east of Sirte in a town called Harawa, where people dressed as civilians (and they may very well be) fired on the insurgent force.

The rebels then pulled back from the village and came under heavy artillery fire, it was reported.

The new rebel front in Central/Eastern Libya after gains made over the weekend.

CNN military analysis retired Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander, said tonight he thinks the rebels need to negotiate with the people to get out of the way before they launch an all-out attack on Sirte.

If this offensive fails it could put the revolution into a stalemate, as many observers have noted.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, disclosed that it quietly called in its close-in air power over the weekend, using A-10 Thunderbolt tank-killers and AC-130 gunships to pound Gadhafi's ground forces. The Pentagon previously would not discuss the use of those planes, but it is clear they saw a role for using the aircraft that are vulnerable to small-arms fire because they fly closer to the ground that the fighters and bombers used thus far by the coalition.

"We have employed A-10s and AC-130s over the weekend," said Pentagon spokesman Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said, without naming targets.

The A-10 is armed a multi-barrelled 30mm cannon that fires nearly 4,000  armor-piercing rounds per minute. The AC-130 gunship is a converted transport plane that packs a punch with its 105mm cannon, as well as the 20mm & 40mm guns.
The rebels march to Tripoli, from one end of Libya to nearly the other.

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