Cairo/Benghazi, March 14 (DPA) Rebels in the northeastern cities of Libya appealed to the world community Monday for weapons to help them in their battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
“We want weapons from the international community to fight this criminal. Instead the world is watching Gaddafi slaughter his people,” General Mohamed Abdelrahim told DPA.
Abdelrahim was a general in Gaddafi’s army, but defected several weeks ago to command rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader.
The rebel commander said he returned to the northeastern rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi Monday morning to rearm and return to Brega, where the rebels were fighting Gaddafi’s forces for control.
“Gaddafi’s troops are striking people. Where is the world and the international community?” asked Abdelrahim.
Abdelrahim claimed that over 6,000 people have died and up to 14,000 have been injured in the past several weeks of fighting.
This could not be independently verified, but rights groups have said that well over 1,000 have been killed in the uprising.
“I saw with my eyes a 12-year-old shot dead from air fire. It is something you cannot imagine,” said Abdelrahim.
The mood in the northeastern rebel-held cities of Libya is tense, as Gaddafi’s forces make an eastward push in a bid to take back cities under rebel control.
Libyan government forces claimed to make gains in the eastern part of the country over the last several days, while opposition groups insist they will continue to fight to recapture lost territory.
Libyan state television said the eastern city of al-Burayqah was “cleansed” of rebels, who had been driven out of the city after heavy fighting with forces loyal to Gaddafi.
Gaddafi’s counterattacks, which include heavy air raids and naval attacks, have prevented rebels from making a westward push to the capital Tripoli.
One rebel fighter, who wished to remain anonymous, told DPA that before they can reach Tripoli, they need to take Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, some 500 km east of the capital.
“We are on the doorstep of Sirte,” claimed the rebel.
However, Gaddafi’s troops have appeared to weaken the position of the anti-government forces in the east, where rebels had held the most territory.
If government forces gain total control of al-Burayqa and other nearby cities such Ajdabiya, they could advance on to Benghazi, the opposition’s stronghold.
But, for now, rebels maintain control of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.
Despite the loss of territory to rebel forces and international sanctions and condemnation, Gaddafi is refusing to budge. The leader, who has been in power almost 42 years, claims the uprising has been inspired by foreign agents.