Gaddafi planes attack oil port

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Libyan protesters in Benghazi shout slogans against Col Gaddafi (AP)

Libyan warplanes have struck the rebel-held oil port in the eastern town of Brega.

The area was the site of a fierce battle on Wednesday between leader Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalists, who tried to retake control of the strategic oil installation, and armed rebels who repelled the attack after hours of fighting.

In the nearby town of Ajdabiya, mortuary officials said the death toll from the fighting rose to 14 on Thursday.

The target of the air strike was probably an airstrip that belongs to the huge oil complex.

Meanwhile, three marines from the Netherlands are being held by authorities in Libya after they were captured by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi while trying to rescue Dutch workers.

Two people the marines were trying to rescue were also captured but have since been released and have left Libya.

At least 10 anti-Gaddafi fighters were killed and 18 wounded in Wednesday’s battle for Brega, the site of Libya’s second-largest petroleum facility, which the opposition has held since last week.

For the past week, pro-Gaddafi forces have been focusing on the west, securing Tripoli and trying to take back nearby rebel-held cities, but the regime has seemed to struggle to bring an overwhelming force to bear against cities largely defended by local residents using looted weapons.

Pro-Gaddafi forces succeeded over the weekend in retaking two small towns, but the major western rebel-held cities of Zawiya and Misrata, near Tripoli, have repelled repeated, major attacks – including new forays against Zawiya on Wednesday.

In Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the stronghold of the rebellion in the east, a self-declared “interim government council” formed by the opposition called on nations to carry out air strikes on non-Libyan African mercenaries that Col Gaddafi has used in his militias to put down the uprising.

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