After repelling a counteroffensive by the regime, Libyan rebels are defending themselves against another attack by Gadhafi loyalists. Meanwhile, Germany has announced that it has closed its embassy in Tripoli.
Libyan rebels repulsed a ground attack in Brega
Airstrikes by troops loyal to leader Libyan Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday targeted the airport of the key eastern oil terminal town of Brega and a rebel position in the nearby town of Ajdabiyah in the east, a rebel officer said.
Opposition soldiers also said Gadhafi's troops had been pushed back to Ras Lanuf, home to another major oil terminal and 600 kilometers (375 miles) east of Tripoli, a day after loyalists launched a ground attack on Brega that was repulsed.
The rebels now control large parts of Libya outside Tripoli even as the embattled Gadhafi defies international pressure to end his 41-year rule. They have repulsed land and air offensives by Gadhafi's forces on Brega as he warned foreign powers of "another Vietnam" if they intervened in the uprising.
In the eastern bastion of Benghazi, rebels called for UN-backed airstrikes to halt attacks by African mercenaries they said Gadhafi was using against his own people.
Meanwhile, the German embassy in Tripoli has been closed "for security reasons," the foreign ministry in Berlin announced Thursday. German citizens remaining in Libya had been informed in advance of the possible closure and had been urged repeatedly to use the remaining options to leave the country, the ministry said in a statement. Consular assistance is to be provided from Berlin.
Authorities knew of 51 German nationals who were still in Libya at the start of the week. Countries including Britain and France have already closed their embassies, as foreign nationals have been leaving the country by air, land and sea.
ICC investigates Gadhafi
In The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is investigating Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his inner circle for alleged crimes against humanity, the court's chief prosecutor said on Thursday.
The ICC has launched an investigation against Moammar Gadhafi
Among those under investigation are Gadhafi's sons and his head of security, according to Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. "We have a mandate to do justice and we will do it. There will be no impunity in Libya," Moreno-Ocampo said.
The probe is linked to Gadhafi's ongoing crackdown on anti-regime protests, which started on February 15. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed so far, with the regime suspected of hiring mercenaries and using airstrikes against civilians.
Three Dutch marines are being held by pro-Gadhafi authorities after they were captured while trying to rescue Dutch workers, the Dutch Defense Ministry said Thursday.
Talks between Chavez and Gadhafi
Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Libyan leader Gadhafi discussed plans for an international peacekeeping mission to mediate the crisis in Libya, officials said Wednesday.
"We do confirm that Comandante Chavez had a conversation with Gadhafi yesterday [Tuesday] on a Peace Commission for Libya proposal," Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra tweeted.
Izarra did not offer more details on the talks between the close allies. Chavez on Monday proposed creating an international peace mission with forces from friendly nations to try to mediate the unrest gripping the North African nation and avoid civil war.
The United States and its allies have cooled talk of imposing a no-fly zone over the country amid growing global calls for action to stop Gadhafi from using warplanes against his own people and to protect refugees scrambling to escape.
NATO has no intention of intervening in Libya but is planning for "all eventualities", alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday.
Rasmussen said at a press conference that NATO officials "take note" of a request from the Libya opposition for foreign nations to launch airstrikes against mercenaries hired by Moammar Gadhafi.
However he added: "I would like to stress that NATO does not have any intention to intervene but as a defense alliance and security organization we do prudent planning for all eventualities."
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned against calls to impose a no-fly zone. He told a budget hearing in the House of Representatives: "Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses." Gates added: "And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down."
US officials say all options are on the table to stop the violence in the oil-producing North African nation. But they are wary of military steps as they grapple with the financial and human costs of long, bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Clinton doesn't want Libya to become another Somalia
US warns of Libya turning into 'giant Somalia'
A top priority for the US during the Libyan crisis is preventing the country from becoming another Somalia and a base for terrorism, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.
"One of our biggest concerns is Libya descending into chaos and becoming a giant Somalia," Clinton said.
Somalia has been in crisis without a functioning central government since the early 1990s, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by militant Islamist groups like the al-Shabaab group which is closely linked to al Qaeda.
The Arab League said it was against direct outside military intervention, but could enforce a no-fly zone in cooperation with the African Union. Realistically though, only the United States could carry out such an operation.
Author: Michael Knigge (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler