Monday, 7 March 2011

Qadhafi loyalist heading to oil port of Ras Lanuf

According to UN estimations 200,000 people have fled Libya since the anti-regime revolt began over three weeks ago. The UN is launching an appeal for £99 million for humanitarian aid to help 600,000 people within Libya and those trying to leave the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed Jordan's former foreign minister, Abdelilah Al-Khatib, as a special envoy to Libya. A statement from Ban Ki-Moon's office said that the Secretary General noted "that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, and calls for an immediate halt to the government's disproportionate use of force and indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets".

Reports have emerged that Libyan security forces and Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi supporters have occupied the town of Bin Jawad, and are making their way toward the oil port of Ras Lanuf 50km away.

The anti-government rebels are at a considerable disadvantage against Qadhafi's loyalists fighting in the Leader's tribal heartland, because the latter are better armed and organised. There have been reports that the troops have taken over the town forcing the inhabitants to act as human shields. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the situation "absolutely outrageous" but said that NATO has no plans to intervene.

Speaking about the situation he said: "These systematic attacks against the civilian population may, as stated by the UN Security Council, amount to a crime against humanity."

In related news, the UK government has confirmed that the unsuccessful SAS mission to Libya was authorised by Foreign Secretary William Hague. The mission, intended to make contact with the Libyan Leader amid ongoing unrest, failed when six soldiers and two foreign office officials were detained.

The group was dropped by helicopter in eastern Libya on Friday 4th February but were later seized and taken to a military base by opposition fighters.

Speaking about the mission Hague said: "The team went to Libya to initiate contacts with the opposition. They experienced difficulties, which have now been satisfactorily resolved. They have now left Libya." He added that another mission would be sent to Libya “in due course”.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, The Guardian

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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