Gadhafi men clash with Tunisian army

Gadhafi men clash with Tunisian army

 A television grab shows a Libyan rebel firing in the air after the capture of the Dhuheiba border crossing between Libya and Tunisia on Friday. APPro-Gadhafi forces shelled the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and wounding at least one resident, and a squad drove into the town in a truck chasing anti-Gadhafi rebels.

Tunisia summoned Libya's ambassador to protest against the incursions.
Tunisian deputy foreign minister Radhouane Nouicer, speaking on Al Jazeera television, said casualties had been inflicted, including a young girl.

“We summoned the Libyan envoy and gave him a strong protest because we won’t tolerate any repetition of such violations. Tunisian soil is a red line and no one is allowed to breach it,” he said.

The Libyan troops were chasing rebels from the Western Mountains region who fled into Tunisia in the past few days after Gadhafi forces overran a border post they had earlier seized. A cameraman who crossed into Libya saw the bodies of three Gadhafi soldiers on the ground. It was not clear if they had been shot by the rebels or by the Tunisian military.

Tunisian border guards had shut down the border, he said. They were laying barbed wire and fortifying their positions.

Columns of Libyan refugees fleeing the fighting in the Western Mountains were reaching the crossing but were unable to get through.

Photojournalist in Dehiba, a short distance from the border, saw several abandoned pick-up trucks which Gadhafi  loyalists had driven.

One had a multiple rocket launcher on the back. Another, which had overturned and lay upside down in the sand, was fitted with a heavy calibre machine gun.

Two residents said that shells had fallen on the town from pro-Gadhafi positions across the border.

“Rounds from the bombardment are falling on houses.. A Tunisian woman was injured,” one resident, called Ali, said over the telephone.

He said later the fighting and shelling had stopped. “The Tunisian army is combing the town. We have no idea about the fate of Gadhafi’s forces there because the Tunisian army closed the gates to the town and nobody is allowed to enter.”

Tunisia toppled its own veteran leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in a revolution earlier this year that triggered turmoil through the Middle East and many Tunisians are sympathetic to the rebels fighting Gadhafi’s forces.

While Dehiba was under fire, the rebels, who are fighting to end more than four decades of Gadhafi rule, announced they had recaptured the border post.

Rebels seized the post a week ago. It controls the only road link which their comrades in the Western Mountains have with the outside world, making them rely otherwise on rough tracks for supplies of food, fuel and medicine.

“Right here at this point I’m looking at the new flag flying up there at the border. The rebels have got control of it, the freedom fighters. We’re just in the process of opening it up,” rebel Akram el Muradi said over the telephone.

The main crossing into Libya, two hours’ drive to the north, remains firmly under Libyan government control.

Friday’s clashes marked the first time that government ground forces had crossed the border and entered a Tunisian town.

Residents said a crowd of local people gathered in Dehiba on Friday morning to try to prevent pro-Gadhafi forces from entering the town. Tunisian soldiers fired in the air to disperse them and urged the demonstrators to seek shelter from the shelling inside their homes.

Inside Libya, NATO air strikes hit Gadhafi troops attacking rebel-held Zintan, a rebel spokesman said from there. State news agency Jana confirmed the attacks, saying “the crusader colonial aggression” had hit civilian and military sites.

In the rebel stronghold Benghazi, a doctor said shelling by Gadhafi’s forces in the besieged city of Misrata killed 12 people on Thursday, including two women. He said the dead were victims of rocket and mortar fire.