Third Battle of Brega

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Third Battle of Brega
Part of Libyan civil war
Date 31 March – 7 April 2011
Location Brega, Libya
Result Pro-Gaddafi victory
  • Government forces repel seven rebel attacks on the town with the use of heavy artillery and advance on Ajdabiya[1][2]
Belligerents
Libya Anti-Gaddafi forces

United Nations UNSC Resolution 1973 forces[3]

Libya Gaddafi Loyalists
Commanders and leaders
Libya Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Libya Abdul Fatah Younis
Unknown
Strength
Saaiqa 36 Battalion[5]
300–400 volunteers[6]
17 tanks
300 confirmed (by 4 April)[7]
1,000+ possibly
Casualties and losses
46-49 killed,[8] 3 tanks destroyed and 5 damaged 28 killed[9]
South African photographer missing and presumed killed[10]
*Number of dead on the rebel side includes 27 killed in NATO air-strikes, as well as 3 tanks destroyed and 5 damaged by NATO

The Third Battle of Brega was a battle during the Libyan civil war between government forces and anti-Gaddafi forces for control of the town of Brega and its surroundings.

Background[edit]

After previously advancing rapidly along the coast of the Gulf of Sidra in a previous offensive, the rebels were quickly pushed back. They had initially advanced 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Ajdabiya to just 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte. However, they were rolled back in a government counter-offensive and by 30 March, were back to their starting positions at Ajdabiya with Brega being retaken by the loyalists that night.

The Battle[edit]

31 March – In the morning, rebels counter-attacked Brega in an attempt to push out government forces.[11] The first attack lasted only five minutes before the rebels were in a new retreat following a heavy artillery attack on their positions. By late afternoon, coalition forces had bombed the Libyan army near Brega.[12] Trying to use the air-cover provided by the coalition, the rebels attempted a new attack and managed to break into Brega. Street fighting started with gun battles between government forces and rebels throughout the town.[13] By the end of the day, after heavy fighting, government forces had repelled the rebel counter-attack and were in control of Brega.[14]

1 April – The rebels moved more experienced fighters and heavier weapons to the frontline, though the fighting force was still significantly under-armed and undertrained.[15] In the evening,[16] a coalition air-strike hit a rebel convoy advancing on Brega from Ajdabiya, killing 14 fighters.[17] Also, the loyalist troops successfully ambushed rebels who entered Brega's university complex, where a large number of loyalists were positioned, and the rebels withdrew having lost several men.[18]

2 April – In the early morning, rebels managed to break through the eastern gate of the city. They took control of most of the city before loyalist artillery hit them. By mid-afternoon rebels had retreated from the town and were regrouping at a checkpoint to the east.[19] Later on, the rebels managed once again to enter the town. However, a large number of loyalists were holed up at the university[16] and the rebels were still not able to get into the city center.[20]

3 April – During the morning, the rebels tried to take the university campus and attack the industrial area only to be ambushed. They also came up on roadside mines. The operation led to the bulk of rebel forces retreating 30 to 35 kilometres from the town. Some of the better trained rebels continued fighting on Brega's outskirts locked in skirmishes and artillery duels with loyalist forces in the town.[6][21] By the end of the day, the battle had come down to a stalemate with the rebels waiting on the road east of the city for more NATO air-strikes on loyalist positions in Brega. However, the few strikes that happened had little to no impact on the situation. According to witnesses, a truck of armed "western" men had arrived at the front line in Brega on the rebels side, raising the possibility that the coalition may be beginning to send in military advisors.[22]

The bulk of loyalist forces was reported to be centered around Brega's university campus, about a mile from the old town, and reluctant to engage the rebels due to exposure to air-strikes.[23] They were instead digging in and acting as Brega's outer defense line, not allowing rebels into the town itself.

4 April – On 4 April, the rebels attempted another push and managed to capture the so-called New Brega, a housing district about 8 kilometres (5.0 miles) from the old town. However, the loyalists still controlled the university and the old town which contains the seaport and industrial districts with the oil refinery. Fighting continued around the university[24] with rebel forces advancing to within 1 kilometre (0.62 miles)[25] before bombardment from loyalist artillery positioned in Old Brega[26] forced them to retreat once again.[27]

Rebels returned later and re-engaged in fighting with two fronts forming – one at the university and one at Brega's industrial complex. Rebels were able to hold on in New Brega district.[25] However, even there, there was still ongoing fighting, with rebels trying to clear out any remaining loyalists. An opposition commander believed that there were 50 carloads worth of Gaddafi's forces still in Brega.[7]

By evening, the rebels were in control of New Brega. Loyalist forces were still positioned at the university and in Old Brega. Residents of New Brega began an evacuation.[28][29]

5 April – The next day, after a night of fighting, rebels were pushed from inside the town to the outskirts. While the rebels were resting, loyalists used the night cover to take up positions and ambush the rebels in the morning while they were preparing to re-take their frontline positions. The rebels retreated some 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) from the eastern edge of town to re-assemble and prepare for further fighting.[30] While they were regrouping, an eight-vehicle loyalist convoy, approached the rebel's positions. It was hit by air-strikes destroying two vehicles while the rest turned back. An Agence France-Presse reporter and others confirmed there were no bodies found on the site of the air strike.[30] At that point, while the opposition forces were cheered up by the air-strike, loyalist artillery started firing on the rebels which had led them to pull back from Brega in a panicked 20 kilometres (12 miles) long retreat east towards Ajdabiya.[31][32]

In the afternoon, the rebel Saaiqa 36 Battalion fired Grad rockets at loyalists taking positions in the small village of al-Arbaeen, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya. During the exchange, four loyalist artillery shells hit a concentration of rebels causing a number of casualties.[5] Later, both an NTC spokesman and Al Jazeera confirmed that following the early-morning artillery-backed counter-attack, loyalist troops had secured the whole of Brega.[5] The next day, a BBC correspondent stated that heavy and accurate shelling from government troops had pushed most of the disorganised and poorly equipped rebel army back to the fringes of Ajdabiya.[33]

6 April – In a continuation of the seesaw battle, rebels regained the outpost of al-Arbaeen, and amassed at the outskirts of Brega in preparation of another attack.[34] CNN reported that the rebels managed to re-take 10 out of 40 kilometres of road between Brega and Ajdabiya they lost the previous day to the loyalists.[35]

7 April – During the night, the rebels brought 17 tanks to the frontline east of Brega. However, in the morning, what appeared to be NATO air-strikes hit rebel positions and destroyed three of them, killing between 10 and 13 rebels and wounding between 14 and 22. Five tanks were also damaged. Following the air-strikes, government troops started an artillery attack on the rebels. This led to another retreat away from Brega.[36][37]

Later during the day, rebels speculated that the air-strikes may have come from one of Gaddafi's fighter jets small enough to not be picked up on radar.[38] The NTC stated it believed that the cause of the attack was due to Gaddafi's planes evading the no-fly zone. Following the attacks, loyalists chased the rebels to Ajdabiya, and both civilians and some rebels were on the verge of retreating from the city amid rumours Gaddafi's forces were preparing for an attack.[39] By nightfall, Gaddafi's forces advanced to within 40 kilometres (25 miles) of Ajdabiya and were in range to conduct rocket attacks on the city.[40]

Aftermath[edit]

By 8 April, most civilians had left Ajdabiya, but rebels regrouped in Ajdabiya which was still in rebel hands, after their forces fled in panic to several different directions near Ajdabiya. NATO acknowledged that it was responsible for the air-strikes on the rebel tanks, but refused to apologise for attack because they "had not been aware that the rebels were now using tanks".[41] During the day, pro-Gaddafi forces used the panic that the NATO air-strike caused to move within 17 to 19 kilometres (11 to 12 miles) from Ajdabiya, putting them once again at its gates, less than two weeks after previously retreating from the town.[42] By the next day, the battle for the city had already started.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gaddafi Forces Take Brega". Al Jazeera. 5 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Rebels Retreat from Brega in the Face of Heavy Onslaught by Al Qathafi Troops". The Tripoli Post. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "UN Clears Way for Libyan No-Fly Zone". ABC News. 18 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Nato Takes Control of Enforcing Libya No-Fly Zone". Dawn. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "April 5th Updates". libyafeb17.com.
  6. ^ a b Burleigh, Marc (3 April 2011). "Battle for Brega Rages After Ambush". The Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Fighting Continues in Libya, as Does Debate on Arming Rebels". CNN (Tripoli). 4 April 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  8. ^ 11 killed (31 March– 1 April)[1][2] 14 killed in NATO air-strike (2 April),[3] 1 killed in ground fighting (2 April),[4] 6 killed (3 April),[5] 4 killed (4 April),[6] 10 [7]-13 [8] killed (7 April), total of 46–49 reported killed
  9. ^ 7 killed between Brega and Ajdabiya (2 April),[9] 20 killed in Brega (2 April)[10] 1 killed (3 April),[11] total of 28 reported killed
  10. ^ Kirka, Danica (19 May 2011). "Family Believes South African Journalist Dead". Seattle Times (London). Associated Press. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Rebels Return to Brega Amid Reported Defections by Special Forces". Monsters and Critics. Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Retrieved 31 March 3011. 
  12. ^ "1340: Coalition forces have bombed pro-Gaddafi forces near Brega, and they have been pushed back to the village of Bishr, west of the city, BBC Monitoring reports, quoting privately owned online newspaper Libya al-Yawm…… | LiveWord? Libya". liveword.ca. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "Libyan Rebels in Street Battles for Brega". The Daily Telegraph. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  14. ^ McGreal, Chris (31 March 2011). "Libyan Rebels Deny Crisis After Assault on Brega Fails". The Guardian (Benghazi). Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  15. ^ Chivers, C.J. (1 April 2011). "Libyan Rebels Repelled by Loyalists Outside Brega". The New York Times (Brega). Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Libya: Coalition Air Strike Kills Rebels Near Brega". Channel 4. 2 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  17. ^ Meo, Nick (2 April 2011). "Libya: Nato Warplanes Kill 14 Rebels". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Sengupta, Kim (3 April 2011). "Rebels Die as Victims of Their Own Disarray". The Independent. 
  19. ^ Dziadosz, Alexander (2 April 2011). "UPDATE 3-NATO-led air strike kills 13 Libyan rebels". Reuters Africa (Brega). Reuters. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  20. ^ "Libya Rebels Battle Gaddafi Forces in Oil Town". Khaleej Times. Reuters. 3 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  21. ^ "Libyan Opposition Meeting with British Diplomats". CNN. 3 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  22. ^ Farmer, Ben (3 April 2011). "Libya: Waiting for Air Strikes To Break a Stalemate". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  23. ^ Davies, Wyre (3 April 2011). "Libya: Stalemate Around Libyan Oil Town of Brega". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  24. ^ Lucas, Ryan (4 April 2011). "Libyan Rebels Retake Much of Key Oil Town". Deseret News (Brega). Associated Press. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  25. ^ a b "Libya Live Blog – April 4". Al Jazeera. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  26. ^ Pinkas, Alon (20 March 2011). "Rebels, Gaddafi Forces Clash on Oil Town Outskirts". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  27. ^ Krauss, Joseph (4 April 2011). "Libya Rebels Reject Transition Under Kadhafi Sons". Jakarta Globe. Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  28. ^ "Libyan Rebels Gaining Ground in Brega". United Press International.
  29. ^ "Libyan Forces Push Back into Oil Town of Brega, Say Greater Organization Bolsters Advance". Canadian Business.
  30. ^ a b "Libyan Rebel Leader Says NATO Isn't Doing Enough". USA Today (Benghazi). Associated Press. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  31. ^ "Libyan Rebel Leaders Say They Are 'Disappointed' by NATO's Efforts". CNN (Tripoli). 5 April 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  32. ^ Moutot, Michel; Burleigh, Marc (5 April 2011). "NATO Warplanes Attack Kadhafi Forces Near Brega". Google News (Brega). Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  33. ^ "Nato Concern at Libya Use of Human-Shields in Misrata". BBC News. 6 April 2011. 
  34. ^ "Libya Live Blog - April 6". Al Jazeera.
  35. ^ "Gadhafi Asks Obama To End NATO Bombing". CNN (Tripoli). 6 April 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  36. ^ "Libya Rebels 'Want Answers' from Nato on Air Strike". BBC News. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  37. ^ Chivers, C. J.; Fahim, Kareem (7 April 2011). "Libyan Rebels Say Airstrikes Killed 5". The New York Times (Zuwetina). Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  38. ^ "April 7th Updates". libyafeb17.com.
  39. ^ Davies, Wyre (7 April 2011). "Rebels Retreat in Ajdabiya After 'Nato Air Strike'". BBC News (Ajdabiya). Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  40. ^ Campbell, Greg (7 April 2011). "Libyan Rebels Say NATO Airstrike Thwarted Tank Attack". USA Today (Benghazi). Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  41. ^ "Libyan Rebels Regroup on Eastern Front". News Australia. Agence France-Presse. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  42. ^ Campbell, Greg (8 April 2011). "Gadhafi Forces Push Toward Western Gate". USA Today (Ajdabiya). Associated Press. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 

Coordinates: 30°26′6″N 19°40′1″E / 30.43500°N 19.66694°E / 30.43500; 19.66694