Moammar Gadhafi loyalists released video footage showing they had captured the key crossroads city of Ajdabiya from rebels on Thursday, and vowed to move toward the rebel stronghold Bengazi, some 95 miles to the north.
The Libyan government has relied heavily on paid mercenaries from neighboring countries and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to spearhead the fighting, according to sources close to the rebel headquarters in Bengazi.
In Tripoli, Gadhafi’s son Seif al Islam, who has become the Libyan strongman’s spokesman in recent weeks, said the fighting would be over “in 48 hours.”
Gadhafi met with the ambassadors of China, Russia and India on Sunday, and offered to invite them to take over oil installations vacated by Western oil companies, according to the government news agency, JANA.
“We are ready to bring in India and Chinese companies to replace Western companies,” Gadhafi said.
The president of the Libyan oil company, former prime minister Shukri Ghanem, said that Libya was only producing around 500,000 barrils of oil per day, down from 1.6 million b/d before the fighting began in mid-February.
Last week, five llyushin 76 military cargo jets flew military gear to Libya from Russia and unloaded it at the far side of the international airport in Tripoli, according to sources close to rebel forces on the ground.
“There are signs [Gadhafi] is seeking additional armaments right now,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Tuesday.
Cameron said the British government was willing to consider imposing a no-fly zone on Libya even without a U.N. Security council resolution, which Russia and China have been blocking until now.
“Every day Gadhafi is brutalizing his own people," Cameron said. "Time is of the essence."
Libyan Sukhoi-24 fighter bombers pounded rebel positions during fierce fighting for control of Ajdabiya on Tuesday. The absence of a no-fly zone also has allowed Gadhafi to fly his personal jet, a French-built Dassault Falcon, back and forth to Belarus on suspected sanctions-busting missions, according to Hugh Griffiths, an arms-trafficking analyst with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI.
Griffiths says that Libya has been flying in weapons from Belarus. The rebels claim that Gadhafi has brought in special forces troops from Ukraine to seal the border with Egypt, so the rebels can’t escape as loyalist troops launch the final assault on the rebels at Benghazi.ymy
A Western source in telephone contact with former Libyan air force personnel on the ground at the Tripoli airport, said that two Il-76 flown by Syrian pilots landed five days ago, bringing Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.
The rebels say that Hezbollah fighters, dressed as civilians, infiltrated Ajdabiya 24 hours before the attack against the rebels by Gadhafi’s forces on Tuesday, and have been slaughtering rebel fighters who didn’t manage to flee before the town fell to the loyalists.
“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” the Western source said his contacts on the ground were telling him.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad “gave orders to his intelligence to assist Gadhafi's services via information and any other means,” Middle East expert Walid Phares tells Newsmax. “Damascus allowed a number of pilots trained to fly Migs and Soviet Built attack helicopter to be hired as mercenaries for Gadhafi.”
In a celebratory late-night speech on Tuesday from his Bab Azizia palace in Tripoli, Gadhafi claimed only 150 people had been killed in the fighting.
"What happened is a few rats and dogs infiltrated our society and got some weapons," he said. "We consider these to be limited incidents."
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