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03/04/2011

The battle for Al Brayqah (Brega)

Rick Madonik Staff Photographer

Early yesterday morning, Muammar Gadhafi's regular army attacked a small city 230 kms south of Benghazi, in eastern Libya. The citizens of the town defended as best as possible. The attack began at 0300 and by early morning the news was not good. Reports stated Loyalists were in control of the strategic parts of the city with rebel fighters (read citizens) surrounded at the airport. My colleague Mitch Potter talked with a doctor by cell phone who was at the airport with 200 supporters trying to fend off the push by Gadhafi's men. He told Mitch they would not abandon their city and would die on their land rather than surrender or retreat. This is the common sentiment we hear from everyone we talk with. Libyans, at least in these parts and I suspect in much of the rest of the country, have had it with 42 years of autocratic rule and want freedom. They want democracy. They want elections. And it appears they will die for it.

Foreign journalist began heading south to report on the battle and the outcome. Mitch and I left with five other journalist, a driver, a translator and another man. At each defensive line we came across we asked what the situation was further on down the road. All assured us the path to the edge of Brega (there's a dozen ways to spell the name of the town) was safe and in control of the rebels. Judging the number of defensive lines, the anti-aircraft guns, tanks in strategic locations and a flood of rebel army regulars headed south to help out the citizens of Brega.

We did encounter various accounts of what the rebels held, had recaptured, or were lost. In Ajdabiya, about 80 kms north of Brega, hundreds were at the southern gate waiting to defend it should the fight come more north. (This was unlikely since the campaign had been waging for 12 hours and regrouping and resupply would have to happen if Loyalist were to push up the road.) We also got accounts the oil refinery was retaken by Revolutionary forces, the airport was now secure in rebel hands after hours of battle. The last of the fighting was at the university in the southern district of the city.

A decision was made to go to the hospital in the north of the city to see what was going on. While watching and photographing ambulances stream in with dead and injured, the fighting could be heard about 10 kms away. As we entered the city, the unnerving sight of a MIG fighter circling overhead, about 10 kms to the east, was of concern. We pushed quickly to the hosptial as the plane's profile was nose down. It would drop a bomb at the refinery and the cloud from the explosion was clear from the distance.

Inside the city itself we found it rather calm as people stood outside their houses, walked about, contined to drive about showing little concern for what was happening further south. About an hour after arriving, the guns went silent. Thirty minutes later the celebratory gunfire of a victory echoed through the walled valleys of Brega.

The final toll on the rebel side was 15 dead and dozens injured.

Following are some of the pictures filed from yesterday, and from today, as the people of Libya continue to fight for their freedom.

WARNING - Some of the pictures are graphic, and can be disturbing, but the fact is war is ugly, its dangerous and its one of the evils still practiced around the world in many places.

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 A rebel fighter who accompanied a fellow fighter yells to the heavens as the crowd assembled outside the hospital emergency area joins in.

    WARNING - SOME OF THE IMAGES THAT FOLLOW MAY BE CONSIDERED GRAPHIC AND BE DISTURBING

 

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 An injured rebel fighter awaits treatment as his friends stand near by.

 

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A critically injured fighter is brought into the hospital from the fighting at the university.

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Weary looking hospital staff await the constant stream of ambulances from the fighting taking place several kilometres away at the university.

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 An injured rebel fighter is taken from an ambulance into the hospital.

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A man is overcome with emotion and carried off. One of his family members was killed in the fighting in the city. 

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A young man peers through the window of the small morgue at one of four bodies.

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Hospital staff work on an injured rebel fighter in the trauma room of the hospital.

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The cloud dust after a Libyan fighter jet dropped a bomb northeast of the city as Gadhafi Loyalist battled with rebels after an overnight attack on the city.

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Reinforcements from Benghazi stop for fuel on their way to Al Brayqah to help with the day long fight with Gadhafi loyalist.

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Rebel army members speak to the media about 15 kms from Al Barqah where they headed to reinforce the fighters defending the city.

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Rejoicing at the Western Gates of Ajdabiya after the retreat of Gadhafi forces who attacked the city overnight.

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A man brandishing a hand gun leads the crowd at the western gates of Ajdabiya.

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At day's end, fighters and others return to the north and pass under the Western Gates of Ajdabiya.

 

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The following day, one of three rebel fighters from Benghazi killed yesterday in the battle for Al Brayqah are brought to main gathering point in their home city for prayers before burial.

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The bodies of three rebel fighters (two caskets seen) killed yesterday in the battle for Al Brayqah are are prayed over in central Benghazi prior to burial.

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A mourner flashes a V sign as others prepare to move the bodies of to the cemetary.

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Men raise their hands in prayer for the rebel fighters killed Wednesday in the battle for Al Brayqah.

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A young man kisses the forehead of one of the three rebel fighters killed yesterday in the battle for Al Brayqah.

 

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