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Monday, April 25, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Libyan rebels' plea: 'Either we get ground troops or we flee for the desert'

CAIRO — The Libyan rebel movement has decided to appeal for NATO ground troops to help repel the assault by the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.


Rebel sources said the National Transitional Council has determined that the revolt would be crushed without the immediate deployment of several thousand foreign troops.

They said that despite the defection of major military units, the rebels remain poorly equipped and led.

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"We cannot sustain this fight by ourselves and the air strikes have not worked," a rebel source said. "Either we get ground troops here or we flee for the desert."

On April 19, a leading rebel representative, Nouri Abdullah Abdul Ati, called on NATO to send ground forces to protect the coastal city of Misrata from Gadhafi, Middle East Newsline reported. Misrata has marked the last coastal city under rebel control and its port was used for resupply of both residents and the rebels.

In his appeal, Ati said unless NATO or United Nations forces arrive soon, the people in Misrata would be killed or die of hunger. He marked the first rebel leader to call for foreign troop intervention in Libya.

So far, Britain and France have agreed to send military advisers and equipment to the rebel movement. The United States has promised to ship non-lethal equipment as well.

But the rebel sources said the pledges were insufficient to stop Gadhafi's assault. They said Gadhafi has at least 20,000 well-armed soldiers whose combat skills were improving with time.

"They now can operate even if NATO planes are flying above," the rebel source said. "They can absorb air strikes and still come back a day later."

Gadhafi has focused on recapturing Misrata amid operations by armed U.S.-origin unmanned aerial vehicles. The rebels said Gadhafi forces fired 200 BM-21 Grad rockets toward the port of Misrata on April 14, which forced a temporary closure of the facility. The regime was also said to have sent snipers and laid improvised explosive devices around Misrata amid reports of a tactical withdrawal.

"I have received information about 15 people who were martyred and 31 wounded as a result of ambushes by Gadhafi brigades at the site of their withdrawal," rebel spokesman Abdul Basset Abu Mezerik said.

Regime forces have also used Katyusha-class rockets in attacks on other rebel-held towns. On April 23, the rebels reported the capture of Yafran by Gadhafi forces amid a barrage of Grads.

"They are firing mortars and Grad missiles," another rebel spokesman, identified only as Ezref, told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel.

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