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Khadafi's attempts at a counterattack against the opposition widened again today, with airstrikes against more towns, but with inconclusive results.
The popular uprising against Gaddafi, the bloodiest yet against a long-serving ruler in the Arab world, has knocked out nearly 50 percent of the OPEC-member's 1.6 million barrels of oil per day output, the bedrock of its economy.The fighting has also cut the country's oil production nearly in half, which has affected global oil prices and while US oil imports are barely affected by the reduction in Libyan output, it definitely puts a crimp in the oil imports of countries like Italy, France, and the rest of Europe.
In the east, rebels fired a sustained barrage of mortar bombs and rockets at a military base in the oil terminal of the eastern port of Ras Lanuf, which lies on a strategic coastal road, and the army returned fire with artillery. Rebel sources told Reuters they had taken the town's airport.
In Zawiyah, about 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital, pro-Gaddafi forces fought for hours with rebels who have been holding the town centre, two residents told Reuters.
"From 11 a.m. (0900 GMT) until now Gaddafi's mercenaries, mainly from Africa, have been opening fire on people here," said a local man called Ibrahim. "Hundreds of victims are now in the town hospital."
"We have no choice but to continue our fight against this dictator." The account could not be verified independently.
An oil facility at Zueitina, south of the Libyan rebel-held city of Benghazi, has been damaged and was on fire, Al Jazeera said, showing a video of black smoke rising from an oil plant.
Witnesses report dozens of people were killed when Khadafi's thugs tried to retake a town near Tripoli:
At least 30 civilians were killed on Friday when security forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi tried to retake a town near the capital that has for days been defying his rule, two residents told Reuters.
A large force from a brigade led by one of Gadhafi's sons led the attack on Zawiya, the closest opposition-held city to Tripoli, a witness said. The troops from the Khamis Brigade — named after the son — attacked Zawiya's western side, firing mortars and then engaging in battles of heavy machine guns and automatic weapons with armed residents and allied army units, the witness added.
"I have been to hospital less than 15 minutes ago," a Zawiya resident identified only as Mohamed told Reuters by telephone. "Dozens were killed and more were wounded. We have counted 30 dead civilians. The hospital was full. They could not find space for the casualties."