April 8, 2011 in Nation/World

Airstrikes blamed on NATO hit Libyan rebels; four killed

West accused of moving timidly against Gadhafi
Ned Parker And Borzou Daragahi Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

Libyan rebel fighters pray in the desert on hearing claims from other rebels that an airstrike farther up the road toward Brega had hit rebel forces, killing at least two and injuring more than a dozen.
(Full-size photo)

Microsoft manager held

 SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp. is pursuing the release of a manager who has been held by authorities in Libya for nearly three weeks.

 The company said it has been working with international organizations for two weeks to secure the release of Khalid Elhasumi from Libyan authorities. He has been in custody since March 19. Microsoft said it has no information about the reasons for Elhasumi’s detention.

 Elhasumi joined Microsoft in 2010 as a countrywide manager of its Libya operations. Microsoft first opened offices in Libya in 2006.

Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya – Four Libyan rebel fighters were killed in airstrikes Thursday that the opposition’s top general blamed on NATO.

The incident followed the death of 13 rebels last weekend when a NATO warplane mistakenly opened fire on rebel fighters, according to the rebel’s military command. The latest episode elicited frustration from the opposition’s leaders, who accused the West of not moving aggressively to stop Moammar Gadhafi’s forces as they besiege cities and advance on the opposition’s battle positions.

The strikes occurred at 10:30 a.m. after the rebels moved 20 tanks to the front line in their battle to retake the refinery city of Brega, a key coastal installation that the fighters lost a week ago.

“People are asking us who we think bombed our tanks. We would assume it was the NATO by mistake, (by) friendly fire,” said Gen. Abdelfatah Younis.

At least four people were killed, including two medics, Younis said. Four tanks were badly damaged, but Younis said the rebels had 400 tanks.

After the airstrikes, Gadhafi’s forces advanced toward the city of Ajdabiya, but rebel forces drove them back to Brega, Younis said. He demanded to know why NATO had not targeted Gadhafi’s fighters before they retreated, and he said he wanted an explanation for the day’s events.

“We are not questioning the intention of NATO, because they should be here to help us and the civilians, but we would like to receive some answers regarding what happened today,” Younis said.

NATO said it was looking into the alleged airstrikes. It said the fighting in that area has been fierce for several days and “the situation is unclear and fluid with mechanized weapons traveling in all directions.”

NATO took command of the operation from the U.S. military last week after American, British and French airstrikes stopped Gadhafi’s troops from advancing on the opposition’s capital, Benghazi.

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