News24

Thousands flee Benghazi fighting

2011-03-19 14:32

Al-Marj - Thousands of people fled eastward from Libya's second city of Benghazi on Saturday, as fighting between insurgents and government forces raged around the rebel-held stronghold, an AFP correspondent said.

A huge traffic jam clogged the road at Al-Marj, 50km from Benghazi on the road to Tobruk and the Egyptian border.

Local residents handed out bags full of dates and cartons of milk to the refugees, while queues built up at bakeries and other outlets. An unidentified helicopter flew overhead but there was no other sign of military activity.

Closer to Benghazi, rebel checkpoints were still manned and fighters screamed defiance against Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, as a large plume of smoke was seen rising from the city behind them.

A man with a green flag standing in the road shouted, "Gaddafi will die, Gaddafi will die".

Airstrikes and shelling shook the city as foreign countries prepared military action to enforce a UN Security Council resolution directed at Gaddafi.

Opposition media outlets said Benghazi was coming under attack from the west, while Libyan government officials denied Tripoli was violating a ceasefire it had declared on Friday.