Rebels had set out towards Sirte on Sunday morning from Ras Lanuf but came under heavy fire at Bin Jawad, 160 km (100 miles) from Sirte, Ibrahim Boudabbous, a fighter who took part in the rebel advance, said.
“Last night, Gaddafi’s forces took the opportunity to enter the homes of the people of Bin Jawad,” he told Reuters, adding that when the rebels advanced this morning “Gaddafi’s forces attacked with aircraft and shot from on top of the houses.”
He said rebels withdrew and were regrouping in Ras Lanuf. Dozens of rebel vehicles armed with heavy machineguns arrived in Ras Lanuf from the west, where rebel fighters had earlier reported the attack by Gaddafi loyalists in Bin Jawad.
During the fighting, Libyan forces said they had shot down a helicopter. Three rebel fighters told Reuters they had seen it falling into the sea, but no further details were available. One fighter, returning wounded from the frontline town of Bin Jawad said, Gaddafi loyalists had attacked with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Asked what he had seen, he replied: “Death.” Distraught, he would not say any more.
Other rebel fighters in Ras Lanuf said they had received news of the attack by telephone from the frontline. “People tell us in Bin Jawad there are Gaddafi forces.
Some rebels have been hit by snipers,” Khamis al-Libi, a rebel fighter, said.
“They have RPGs, and machineguns,” added Mansour Mayloud, another fighter. “There’s been an attack on Bin Jawad.” It was not immediately clear if this was a concerted assault or a hit-and-run attack on the rebels.
The government said today it had driven the rebels, who took over eastern Libya over a week ago, all the way back to their eastern stronghold of Benghazi. ? Reuters