Gadafy forces step up attacks


Forces loyal to Col Muammar Gadafy have attacked rebel-held areas in Libya's western mountains while insurgents moved to secure billions of dollars to feed and supply their territories and drive their military campaign.

Ali Tarhouni, head of the rebel national council's finance committee, said today he expected France, Italy and the US to extend credit secured against frozen Libyan state assets. The money should arrive in a week to ten days.

"I need about $2 to 3 billion and we are hoping to get most or all of this," Mr Tarhouni told reporters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Forces loyal to Col Gadafy, not seen in public since officials said he survived an attack on a Tripoli building on Saturday, today kept up pressure on rebel western outposts.

Two rebel spokesmen said there was fighting taking place in the eastern suburbs of the rebel western outpost of Misrata between rebels and Col Gadafy’s forces.

Misrata's port is a lifeline for the besieged city and has been under heavy bombardment.

"Fighting is taking place in the area of Bourouia. The brigades are trying to enter the Tamina area, east of the city," said one of the spokesmen.

He said there were Nato aircraft in the skies over the city but was not able to say if there had been any air strikes.

With Libya's economy in tatters after more than two months of civil war, funds to pay for food, medicine and the state salaries on which most of the population depends are running low.

The insurgents had been hoping for a swift overthrow of Col Gadafy but his better-trained and better-equipped militias halted the rebel advance west and forced a stalemate in the fighting that could last for months.

"We are still discovering different segments that need to be paid that we thought were paid," said Mr Tarhouni.

"At every single moment another need arises in terms of food, medicine and in terms of people who are injured." Supplies of fuel vital to keeping eastern towns supplied and maintain the military campaign against Col Gadafy are also tight.

Like anti-Gadafy groups in other parts of Libya, rebels in the western mountains want more help from western warplanes.

Nato minesweepers searched the approaches of Misrata harbour yesterday for a drifting mine blocking aid supplies.

A Nato statement said the alliance had destroyed two of three mines laid by government forces. It said the mines were small and hard to detect but capable of doing serious damage.

The International Organisation for Migration said an aid ship was still waiting off Misrata for bombing to stop and mines to be cleared before it tried to deliver supplies and evacuate some 1,000 foreigners and wounded Libyans.

Crowds chanting support for Col Gadafy gathered in Tripoli yesterday for the funeral of his 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab.

The government says a Nato air raid on Saturday killed him and three of Gadafy's young grandchildren.

Col Gadafy did not appear to be at the funeral but Saif al-Islam, the most prominent of his seven sons, attended along with his elder half-brother Mohammed.