[Also see http://my.telegraph.co.uk/clothcap]
Has NATO caused a stalemate? The insurgents appear to be “pressing back” (as a down under rag called it) to Benghazi.
As I recall the Libyan gov’t was reported to have said it could accept a partition, (true, link) probably between Brega and Ajdabiya if the army can’t take Ajdabiya. Will the bankster and oil cartels accept it? If it happens it will be a sad day for Libya and not what the original peaceful youth protest (that got hijacked by the insurgents) wanted. At the end of the day if it ends the bloodshed it is a solution to be pursued and quickly. Sarkozy should tell his “advisor” to advise the insurgents to do it.
There was an anti NATO protest of around 400 people in Benghazi following the bombing of some of their heavy armour and fighters. The majority of US, UK and now apparently French voters don’t want the bombing to continue, i.e. they do not support the intervention or the killings in a country that offerred no threat to any coalition country. Bombing both sides (unequally) instead of just the gov’t forces does not add to NATO’s popularity.
Prospects fade for military overthrow of Gaddafi (Reuters via Rocket news)
NATO leaders acknowledged the limits of their air power, which has caused rather than broken a military stalemate, and analysts predicted a long-drawn out conflict that could end in the partition of the North African oil producer.
Special Forces officers arrested on suspicion of leaking secrets DT
The arrests took place shortly before eight men, six reportedly SAS, were detained by rebels in the Port city of Benghazi.
Gaddafi troops launch heavy assault on Misurata ‘killing 30 rebel fighters’ DT
Troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi launched a heavy assault on the coastal city of Misurata on Saturday, killing at least 30 rebel fighters, according to a spokesman for the Libyan rebels.
Libya: cash, fuel and food running short in Benghazi DT
Their most acute problem is money – the governor of the Central Bank in Benghazi has warned all the cash in the city’s banks will run out in just over a week’s time. Their oilfields are being attacked by Col Gaddafi and infrastructure destroyed, and Benghazi is starting to look more and more dilapidated because essential services have more or less ground to a halt.
The streets are strewn with uncollected rubbish, many businesses are still shut, and there are power cuts for a couple of hours daily.
Only an emergency shipment of gas from Qatar averted a complete power shutdown, and many petrol stations cannot obtain fuel, in one of the world’s principal petroleum-exporting nations.
But the looming problems are potentially even more serious.
Ahmed Ben Moussa, head of the National Transitional Council’s humanitarian aid committee, said Benghazi was running out of essential foodstuffs including pasta, cheese, tuna, milk and children’s food.
Although the city’s port was still working and lorries can cross the Egyptian border unhindered, the value of the Libyan Dinar has slumped at the same time as insurance costs and shipping fees have rocketed, causing prices of staples such as pasta to double in the past fortnight.
At the same time families are short of cash to pay the bills – huge numbers of workers have received no salaries from companies based in Tripoli.
“I can see a humanitarian crisis coming and the minute people starve they will raise Gaddafi’s green flag,” Mr Ben Moussa said.
U.N. rights investigators to start probe in Libya (Reuters via Trust’s Alertnet)
United Nations investigators said on Friday they would start next week to probe alleged human rights violations committed by all sides in Libya’s conflict and share evidence with the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
Petraeus: Al-Qaida not on rise in Afghanistan Oped
[I wonder why not.]
Iraq A powerful Shiite cleric threatens reactivate feared militia if US troops stay past 2011 AP via WP
BAGHDAD — A powerful anti-American Shiite cleric threatened Saturday to reactivate his feared militia if American soldiers remain in Iraq beyond this year, after a U.S. offer to keep troops on if they are needed.
Anger flares at Egypt army for lethal protest raid (AP)
Egyptians turn anger on army in Cairo protest (Reuters)
CAIRO – Demonstrators burned cars and barricaded themselves with barbed wire in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, demanding the resignation of the military’s chief Saturday hours after troops violently dispersed a protest there, killing at least one and injuring 71.
The army, which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak was forced out of office on February 11, has become a growing target for a hardcore of protesters who say the generals are colluding with remnants of Mubarak’s network and thwarting calls for a deeper purge.
Memorable piece by Booker
What happens when the great fantasies, like wind power or European Union, collide with reality?
Cannabis could be used to treat epilepsy DT
Cannabis plants are being grown at a secret facility in the south of England in the hope of producing a new treatment for epilepsy.
House votes to strip EPA of power to curb carbon emissions Yahoo
Defying a veto threat by the White House, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to permanently eliminate all authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.
Despite Washington’s preoccupation with devising a budget resolution to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner brought to a vote a largely symbolic bill aimed at curbing EPA regulatory authority on climate change.
That might seem strange given that the bill – approved 255 to 172, with votes falling mostly along party lines – is not expected to become law.
A key reason: No fewer than four measures to curb EPA authority, including one with the same wording as the House bill, failed in the Senate Wednesday, falling far short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Moreover, President Obama has said he would veto such a bill.
So why vote at all? For one thing, the House vote puts on record, in time for the 2012 election cycle, which legislators voted for and against curbing EPA authority on climate-change regulations, analysts say. For another, the bill allows Republicans and a handful of Democrats to demonstrate continued determination to rein in the EPA on climate change.
The USAF B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber: An Instrument of Peace
“Protecting the Lives of Libyan Civilians”
Live report excerpts
Al J Late Saturday
5:43pm A military helicopter with the Libyan rebel flag reportedly seen flying towards the front line around Ajdabiya on Saturday despite a UN-imposed no-fly zone, the AFP new agency said. (Helicopter pic – click)
6:03pm A Libyan opposition group wants the US to grant immediate access to Gaddafi's frozen assets to pay for humanitarian needs in rebel-held areas.
Ali Aujali, who resigned as Libyan envoy to the US in February and now heads the National Transitional Council, wrote to US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner saying the humanitarian conditions were getting worse.
The US has frozen more than $34bn in assets as part of sanctions against Gaddafi and his top aides.
8:13pm A Libyan official says a NATO attack has hit the southern outskirts of Misurata, adding that it was unclear what the target was. Referring to a plume of black smoke rising from the south of the city, the unnamed official said: “This smoke is from a NATO air strike which hit today.”
A Reuters witness claimed to have seen a warplane sweeping across the sky. [Perhaps it was a Mirage]
8:41pm NATO warplanes intercept a MiG-23 fighter jet operated by a rebel pilot , forcing him to land after he violated the no-fly zone. An unnamed NATO official said the jet took off from an airfield near Benghazi and was intercepted within minutes.
“No aggressive action was displayed by the MiG-23 and the NATO fighters proceeded to force it to land back at the Benina airfield.”
[Contrasted with the aggressiveness of a gov't plane "shot down" while moving on the tarmac?]
10:43pm NATO commander of the Libya operation Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard says air strikes hit armored vehicles firing on civilians near both Misurata and Ajdabiya. He said NATO jets also struck ammunition stockpiles east of Tripoli being used in attacks on Misurata and other populated areas.
An unnamed NATO official told The Associated Press that warplanes destroyed 17 tanks and damaged nine more.
7:30am Here’s a longer version of the footage Al Jazeera has obtained of government forces in the battlefield. It’s filmed in mid-March and shows young men being taken into custody and beaten up by Gaddafi forces roaming the streets of Ajdabiya.
7:58am North Korea has ordered its citizens in Libya not to return home in an apparent bid to block news of civil uprisings in the Arab World from reaching the isolated state, according to Yonhap news agency.
The report says Pyongyang sent a message to its embassy in Libya telling about 200 North Korean workers not to return.
9:50am Gaddafi’s forces have clashed with opposition fighters in Ajdabiya, according to rebels quoted by Reuters.
A witness at Ajdabiya’s eastern gate heard shooting and artillery fire and saw plumes of black smoke, suggesting Gaddafi’s forces had pushed towards the centre of the town.
“There is resistance inside the city. Gaddafi forces are fighting with rebels. They have a presence inside.”
12:41am African Union mediators have left Mauritania for Libya to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.
[Turkey, South Africa, the AU all want to negotiate a peaceful settlement. It would be interesting to see who gets what out of it. Gaddafi has made large large contributions to the AU for example.]
13:09pm Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from just north of Ajdabiya, says fighting is going on, mainly at the western side of the city.
“We’re seeing plumes of smoke and constant shelling … There are pockets of Gaddafi’s forces in the city.”
She said she’d been told that there were patients in a hospital who appeared to have been shot by sniper fire.
She described the city as something of a “ghost town” as not many civilians are left in the city. Many have fled eastwards to the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
The Scottish police are being very coy about what Koussa said to them. telegraph.co.uk/…..-Scottish-police-inte
Those affected want to see him: Lockerbie victims’ families split over call for full probe amid calls to quiz Koussa Herald
[...] Mr Swire has written to other Lockerbie families, attacking their campaign as “unwise”, based on “profoundly unsecure foundations” which “may lead to unnecessary further grief for them, and perhaps all of us Lockerbie relatives”.
He warned the war in Libya would provide “fog not clarity” and that allegations from rebels in Benghazi or Koussa would be difficult to assess “laced as they will be with strong but partially-hidden motivations”.
He writes: “However strong our need to find the truth about why our loved ones died, I believe we have an absolute obligation to find out what that truth really is, lest from our activities further injustice and revenge should be unleashed. We must not fall into that trap: surely the victims would not be proud of us if we did. Failure to show restraint now may make coping even harder in the years ahead.”
Meanwhile, leading criminal QC Paul McBride has pointed out that it was still possible for Scotland to grant Koussa immunity from prosecution in return for evidence on the Lockerbie bombing – although no such offer has been made.
There probably won’t be any further pics of the helicopter:
In Brega region, in the east of the country, two rebel helicopters violating the no-fly zone were shot down by Gaddafi forces, according to a government minister.
That was from DT’s article “Libya: Gaddafi troops launch heavy assault on Misurata ‘killing 30 rebel fighters‘ ” that also mentioned A second rebel spokesman, Saadoun, disputed the figure and said the day’s rebel death toll was eight confirmed and 10 unconfirmed.
Al J Live
4:14pm NATO airstrikes outside Ajdabiya destroyed 25 tanks earlier today, the alliance reports.
A Reuters correspondent also said he had seen at least 15 charred bodies lying next to bombed armoured vehicles in the aftermath of the strikes.
4:18pm At least 12 anti-Gaddafi fighters were killed in fighting for Ajdabiya over the course of the weekend, says Reuters.
Doctors in the city’s main hospital told Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton that 11 were killed yesterday.
4:20pm Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton tells us of seeing a Gaddafi soldier with a severe neck wound in Ajdabiya’s hospital.
“Doctors here were told that this soldier was surrounded in a school here. Fighters shouted at him to surrender and he shot himself. He is currently on life support here. He has a very vicious wound to his throat and doctors don’t think he is going to pull through.”
4:46pm Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, who commands NATO’s Libya operations, says:
“The situation in Ajdabiyah, and Misrata in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the Gaddafi regime.”
[Ajdabiya - earlier described as like a ghost town with hardly any civilians...]
4:58pm More from General Bouchard: “We are hitting the regime logistics facilities as well as their heavy weapons because we know Gaddafi is finding it hard to sustain his attacks on civilians.”
“One recent strike cratered the road leading to Ajdabiya, west of Brega, where his fuel and ammunition is being moved forward on large trucks. Further west we hit two more storage bunkers where the ammunition is coming from.”
[I suspect Bouchard identifies combatants and civilians as identical.]
5:01pm This may not be what the anti-Gaddafi fighters had in mind – but the UN resolution was pretty clear… A NATO statement reads: “As an example of NATO impartiality, a fighter aircraft (MiG 23) flown by TNC forces was intercepted and forced to land within minutes of taking off from the Benina Airfield near Bengazi yesterday. Under the UN mandated No-Fly-Zone no unauthorized aircraft is permitted to fly in Libyan airspace.”
[The insurgents take the fight into towns and cities then the army is bombed for attacking them. None of the insurgents' (unguided) rocket launchers that were used to assault Brega and elsewhere have been targetted, none of their heavy armour that travelled from Benghazi was targetted except by accident. NATO is impartial like a Man Utd supporter at a derby match.]