Libyan rebels, Sudan mercenaries clash

2011-05-26 07:25

Benghazi - Libyan rebels clashed on Wednesday with Sudanese mercenaries fighting for Muammar Gaddafi near the border with Sudan, as President Barack Obama predicted the Libyan leader would be forced to step down if Nato keeps up its military campaign with the US playing a key role.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Obama said the Nato coalition was engaged in "a slow, steady process in which we're able to wear down the regime forces".

"There will not be a let up in the pressure we are applying" on Gaddafi, Obama said. "I believe that we have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course we're on, he will step down."

Government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim reacted angrily to Obama's assertion, saying "Gaddafi's destiny, Gaddafi's future, is for the Libyan nation to decide."

"It would be a much more productive statement to say that the Libyan people need to engage in an inclusive peaceful democratic transparent political process in which they can chose the shape of their political system and the leaders of their system," he said.

Meanwhile, a rebel commander in southeast Libya, Ahmed Zway, said rebel fighters had destroyed a weapons-laden vehicle belonging to a Sudanese mercenary force in clashes about 30km west of the southeast oasis of Kufra.

The rebels had surrounded and were trying to capture six other Sudanese vehicles mounted with heavy weapons, he said.

In previous clashes at the southern border, captured Sudanese mercenaries have said they belonged to the Darfur-based rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement. It was not immediately known if the mercenaries captured on Wednesday were members of JEM.

Funded Sudan rebels

Gaddafi has long provided arms, training and vehicles to various rebel groups in Sudan.

Witnesses in Libya have reported African mercenary fighters shooting at protesters or being captured by anti-Gaddafi forces. Some were flown in to put down the rebellion, but most fighters were already in the war-torn country.

Gaddafi has used Libya's oil wealth to aid neighbouring African nations, including Sudan, and to fund the transformation of the old Organisation of African Unity into the African Union, which has helped resolve conflicts on the continent. In February, the AU condemned attacks on civilian protesters in Libya.

Meanwhile, in Nato air strikes overnight, British aircraft hit four of Gaddafi's armoured vehicles near the Libyan city of Zlitan, British military spokesperson John Lorimer said in a statement. Tornado and Typhoon jets also destroyed a radar station in the coastal city of Brega during the Tuesday night raid.

Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, called on the South African leader Jacob Zuma to push forward negotiations to end the three-month conflict when he arrives next week in the capital Tripoli.

Zuma is the highest-ranking politician to visit Gaddafi since the fighting began in Libya.

Zuma to oversee transition

Kaim told The Associated Press the Gaddafi government is hoping Zuma will help arrange a cease-fire between Libyan government forces, Nato and the rebels, and oversee a transitional period.

"The idea is how to find a mechanism to implement the road map - a halt to fire, reconciliation, national dialogue, and then we'll have a transitional period maybe for a year or two," Kaim said, referring to an African Union initiative the Libyan government has embraced, but which rebels have rejected.

Citing a deep mistrust of Gaddafi's regime and emboldened by Nato strikes, the rebels have insisted Gaddafi must leave power before any negotiations can take place.

Throwing into doubt the effectiveness of Zuma's visit, the South African leader will not be meeting representatives of the interim government based in the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

Kaim said there was no need for Zuma to consult the interim government, saying they did not represent most of the rebel insurgents currently battling Gaddafi's forces.

"They are nine people. They don't represent what is going on in Benghazi and other cities in the east," he said.

  • witboy - 2011-05-26 08:23

    Zuma stop meddling in other countries sort out your own country unemployment issues. Try your best or we will end up like Libya

  • Deset Rat - 2011-05-26 09:05

    Zuma has been there once and had come back with egg on his face, this time will be no different. The wasted cost on these trips could have paid to wall and door the "exposed" toilets!

      DeonL - 2011-05-26 12:11

      Yes, his biggest concern might be wich wife / mother of his children to take on the trip.

  • Benny66 - 2011-05-26 09:50

    Zuma, if you're going to waste tax payer's money, do so by sorting out Zimbabwe where you have some clout and where it will have a material effect on improving our local situation as well. Clearly you're not going to achieve anything in Libya if you're going to meet their Gov. (who have already agreed a plan previously)and not rebel representatives (who did not agree the previous plan).. so what is the point?? Unless, of course, it is to offer your murderous pal, Gaddafi, a safe haven in our country?!

  • rordnas - 2011-05-26 11:00


  • one-way - 2011-05-26 11:38

    Too late old chap .The good old U.S. of A`s already printing the posters with Gad`s picture and the caption, "WANTED DEAD OR BLEEDING BADLY" Buy the way , the bounty is guarrenteed in British pounds,small .print, bottom right of poster

  • Alex Browm - 2011-05-26 13:54

    Any proof of mercenaries given? Everytime they speak about mercenaries there are never evidences? Remember how they spoke about yellow hat mercenaries who appeared to be attacked foreign workers? Or how they filmed killings of black Libyan police officers with same claims? Or how they executed 50 (15 by hanging)and imprisoned 156 mercenaries in Al Bayda and later Humain Rights Watch had to say that all of them were Libyan nationals.Or even mercenaries in Misrata where there is no single foreign national detained so far. Now they say ok, we can not show them and can not prove anything because they are too far. Nice fake story.

  • Yasir - 2011-06-07 22:12

    Sudan has the most to benefit by gaddafis' "hanging_to be". The colonel has been behind every rebel group that had taken up arms against any Sudanese government. Starting with the SPLA to Elsadeq Almahdis mercenaries and now to the Darfur rebels. Unfortunately for his international manipulative, they must now find another partner in delaying the development of Sudan and eventually the transition into a truly democratic nation. Good riddance to the Collonel and his partners.

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