Gadhafi forces fire first Scud

Rebels fighting to end Gadhafi’s 41-year rule seized two strategic towns near Tripoli over the past two days, cutting the city off from its supply lines and leaving the Libyan leader with a dwindling set of options if he is to stay in power.

However, pro-Gadhafi forces were encountering a fight-back in one of those towns, Zawiyah, west of Tripoli. Snipers concealed in tall buildings were picking off rebel fighters, and salvos of Russian-made Grad rockets landed in the town.

The Scud missile was fired on Sunday morning from near Sirte, Gadhafi’s home town 500 km east of Tripoli, and landed further east between the rebel-held towns of Brega and Ajdabiyah, said the official.

The missile came down in the desert, injuring no one, said the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity. There was no immediate comment from the government in Tripoli.

Firing the missile, which poses little military threat because it is so inaccurate, is evidence of the Gaddafi administration’s desperation, said Shashank Joshi, Associate Fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

“It’s an obvious sign that the regime’s back is to the wall,” he said.

In the six months of fighting up to now, Gadhafi’s forces have used short-range Grad rockets but have not before deployed Scud missiles, which have a range of about 185 miles.

In the rebel headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, officials said the Scud was probably intended to hit rebel forces near Ajdabiyah.

“Gadhafi troops are using his last gun. He’s crazy,” said Mohammad Zawawi, media director for rebel forces.

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