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The World

April 1, 2011

Gadhafi: Leaders of airstrikes should go, not me

AJDABIYA, Libya — Rebels were showing signs of increased organization Friday as they battled Moammar Gadhafi's forces in eastern Libya, and appeared to have more weapons and communications equipment.

Forces loyal to Libya's leader of nearly 42 years spent much of this week pushing the rebels back about 100 miles along the coast, and the opposition was trying to regroup. The rebels had mortars Friday, weapons they previously appeared to have lacked, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers — more artillery than usual.

The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organized units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.

The rebels' losses this week, and others before airstrikes began March 19, underlined that their equipment, training and organization were far inferior to those of Gadhafi's forces. The recent changes appear to be an attempt to correct, or at least ease, the imbalance.

In another change, rebels were holding journalists back at the western gate of Ajdabiya, far from the fighting. It was unclear where the front line was Friday, but on Thursday had moved into Brega, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Ajdabiya, before Gadhafi's forces pushed them out.

Gadhafi's greatest losses this week were not military but political. Two members of his inner circle, including his foreign minister, abandoned him Wednesday and Thursday, setting off speculation about other officials who may be next. The defections could sway people who have stuck with Gadhafi despite the uprising that began Feb. 15 and the international airstrikes aimed at keeping the autocrat from attacking his own people.

Libya's chief of intelligence took to is knocking down rumors that he is among the government insiders who have abandoned their embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

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