Libyan refugees tell of border fight, fear revenge

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Refugees and artillery fire spilled into Tunisia from Libya and witnesses spoke of more intense fighting over a key supply route for rebels trying to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

One Libyan man said he feared retaliation by pro-Gaddafi forces to avenge a NATO airstrike on Saturday that authorities said killed the Libyan leader’s youngest son in the capital Tripoli.
“It’s calm in (rebel-held) Nalut but we came to Tunisia because we are sure that Gaddafi is going to bombard it (the town) once more after the death of his son,” said the man.
“He is crazy and is capable of anything.”

The Libyan government said on Sunday Gaddafi’s 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab and three grandchildren were killed in a NATO air strike, accusing the Western alliance of trying to assassinate the Libyan leader, Reuters reports.

In the west, the Libyan government forces are fighting to dislodge rebels from the Western Mountains after they seized control last month of the Dehiba-Wazin crossing, opening a passage for food, fuel and medicine.

The sound of heavy bombardment and small arms fire echoed through the mountains on the Libyan side of the border.

Artillery shells fell on and around the town of Dehiba on the Tunisian side of the border, residents told Reuters, the site of an incursion on Friday by forces loyal to Gaddafi that provoked fury in Libya’s western neighbour.
“I never thought I would have to leave my house but today, at the age of 80, I find myself forced to flee with my family, without taking any posessions and without knowing where I’m going to stay here in Tunisia,” said a Libyan man who fled the rebel-held town of Zintan.

A rebel spokesman in Zintan said forces loyal to Gaddafi were trying to advance on the town, south-west of the capital Tripoli, and were “randomly” firing rockets.
“I HOPE THIS WILL END”

The spokesman, called Abdulrahman, told Reuters by telephone that NATO aircraft had bombed positions held by government forces, saying he heard aircraft overhead, followed by two explosions, one of which destroyed a tank near the town.
“The military has been trying to enter the town from three sides: the east, southeast and northeast. The revolutionaries managed to repel an attack from the east,” he said.

Saleh Aouni, a Libyan from the town of Yafran, which has been under siege by pro-Gaddafi forces for weeks told Reuters after he crossed into Tunisia: “We can no longer live there … Not an hour goes by without shelling.”

In tears, he said: “I hope this will end and I can return to a Libya without Gaddafi.”

There were no reports of casualties on Sunday from shells landing on the Tunisian side of the border.

A similar spillover on Friday drew furious condemnation from Tunisia, where the Arab world’s wave of uprisings began late last year leading to the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Residents of Dehiba said they felt helpless.

A man called Mourad Mgadini asked, “What are the (Tunisian) authorities waiting for before they react? Are they waiting for people to die before they do something?”

The Tunisian military had set up six checkpoints on the way into the town to stop any incursions by pro-Gaddafi forces after they drove several pick-up trucks into Dehiba last week in pursuit of rebel fighters who had fled across the border.

Dozens of Tunisian troops, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, were stationed in the desert just outside Dehiba.



A police officer who was in the area where one of the Libyan shells hit said: “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves and to do everything to protect the country.”