x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Qaddafi forces shell rebel positions near Brega

As opposition forces push to seize the front-line town on Libya's coast, government strafing killed seven rebels and wounded 25 yesterday.

A Libyan rebel wounded during the battle for the control of the Brega oil town is rushed into the emergency room of a hospital in Ajdabiya yesterday. Gianluigi Guercia / AFP Photo
A Libyan rebel wounded during the battle for the control of the Brega oil town is rushed into the emergency room of a hospital in Ajdabiya yesterday. Gianluigi Guercia / AFP Photo

AJDABIYA // Government forces shelled rebel positions yesterday near Brega, killing seven rebel fighters and wounding dozens, a medic said.

Opposition forces have been pushing to seize the front-line town on Libya's coast for close to a week, but they have said that fields of landmines laid by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's forces have slowed the advance.

Mohammed Idris, a medic, said government strafing killed seven rebels and wounded 25 yesterday.

The rebels have been struggling to topple Colonel Qaddafi since the uprising against his rule broke out in February.

On the political front, a US official confirmed that American envoys had met with members of Colonel Qaddafi's regime, while Russian news agencies said Libyan foreign minister Abdelati Al Obeidi would hold talks in Moscow today with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Last week, more than 30 nations including the US gave the rebels a boost by recognising their National Transitional Council as the country's legitimate government.

Rebels now control much of Libya's east, the western city of Misurata and most of the western Nafusa mountain range south of Tripoli.

However, rebel forces, mostly volunteers with looted weapons, have made slow progress on the battlefield, despite Nato bombing attacks of Colonel Qaddafi's troops.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says medical services in the western mountains have been struggling with a flood of casualties from the fighting.

A statement on Monday said facilities lack medicine to treat patients and vaccines to deal with outbreaks of disease. An ICRC delegation visited the region and provided bandages and other medical materials.

Arab and Berber rebels wrested control of much of the Nafusa mountains from the government weeks ago.

Meanwhile, US officials "met with regime representatives to deliver a clear and firm message that the only way to move forward is for Qaddafi to step down", a US official said in Washington on condition of anonymity.

"This was not a negotiation. It was the delivery of a message," the official said. "We have no plans to meet again, because the message has been delivered."

But Mussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for Qaddafi's regime in Tripoli, told CNN that the talks took place in Tunisia and said it was the start of a diplomatic process.

"It was a first step in dialogue," he said.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse