Battle of Ajdabiya

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Battle of Ajdabiya
Part of the Libyan Civil War
Date15–17 March 2011 (First phase)
21–26 March 2011 (Second phase)
Location
Ajdabiya, Libya

Coordinates: 30°45′20″N20°13′31″E / 30.75556°N 20.22528°E / 30.75556; 20.22528
Result Pro-Gaddafi victory in the first phase [1]
Anti-Gaddafi victory in the second phase [2]
Belligerents

Flag of Libya (1951-1969).svg Anti-Gaddafi forces


Flag of the United Nations.svg UNSC Resolution 1973 forces [3]

Flag of Libya (1977-2011).svg Gaddafi Loyalists

Strength
Saaiqa 36 Battalion
Several hundred volunteers
2 fighter jets
3 helicopters
Four battalions (including some elements of the Khamis Brigade)
Air support (until 18 March)
Casualties and losses
136 killed, [7] 175 missing, [8] 250 wounded,* [9] at least 1 tank destroyed [10] 20 killed, 20 captured, 3 tanks destroyed, 4–7 tanks captured, 2 armed oil tankers sunk and 1 damaged (First phase, unconfirmed rebel claims) [11] [12]
1 armed oil tanker damaged (First phase, independently confirmed) [13]
21 killed, [14] 6 captured, 24+ tanks, armored vehicles and mobile rocket launchers destroyed or captured [15] (Second phase)
25 [16] –30 [17] civilians killed
*Numbers of killed, missing or wounded on the rebel side include civilians

The Battle of Ajdabiya was an armed battle in and near the city of Ajdabiya that took place as part of the Libyan Civil War. It was fought between anti-government rebels and military forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Following the Second Battle of Brega, in which pro-Gaddafi forces captured the town, Ajdabiya was the only major rebel-held city left en route to the rebel capital of Benghazi. The battle for Ajdabiya had been cited as a potential turning point in the conflict on which the fate of the whole rebellion against the Gaddafi government may be decided. [18] On 26 March 2011, Libyan rebels, backed by extensive allied air raids, seized control of the frontline oil town of Ajdabiya from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces. [19] During the first phase of the battle, pro-Gaddafi forces seized the strategic road junction leading to Benghazi and Tobruk, and captured most of the city. The city centre remained in rebel hands, but was surrounded by pro-government forces and cut off from outside assistance. After the second phase, anti-Gaddafi forces recaptured the road junction and cleared loyalist forces from the city, sending them retreating down the Libyan Coastal Highway towards Sirte.

Ajdabiya Town in Cyrenaica, Libya

Ajdabiya, previously known as Agedabia, is a town in and capital of the Al Wahat District in northeastern Libya. It is some 150 kilometres (93 mi) south of Benghazi. From 2001 to 2007 it was part of and capital of the Ajdabiya District. The town is divided into three Basic People's Congresses: North Ajdabiya, West Ajdabiya and East Ajdabiya.

Libya Country in north Africa

Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.

Muammar Gaddafi Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977, and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. He was initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism but later ruled according to his own Third International Theory.

Contents

Events

Prior to the battle

Ajdabiya was the site of anti-government protests on 16–17 February 2011 in which up to 10 people were said to have been killed, some by pro-government snipers. [20] Protesters quickly took control of the city and declared it to be a "Free City" after burning down the local government headquarters. [21]

First phase

On 15 March 2011, government forces advancing from Brega (which they had captured just a few hours earlier) hit Ajdabiya with a rolling artillery barrage. Air and naval strikes also hit the city. The city had been subjected to airstrikes for the previous three days. Rebels had stated on 13 March, that they would defend the city to the death. However, as soon as the attack started, all of the rebel forces that were not local (from Ajdabiya) were in full retreat, with some of the civilian population, toward Benghazi. Following the artillery strikes, loyalist ground troops attacked. The rebels had expected the loyalists to come in from the west, and they did. However, another separate government force had outflanked the rebels and attacked the city from the south. The loyalists quickly overran the western rebel defences and took the western gate into the city. Also, government soldiers had taken the eastern gate of the city, preventing any more rebels from retreating toward Benghazi. The city was surrounded and the junction at Ajdabiya was under government control, opening the way for them to Benghazi. After the encirclement was complete, government battle tanks went into Ajdabiya all the way to the city center. They encountered the rebel remnants and street fighting ensued. While the fighting was going on in the streets, two old rebel air-attack fighters, sent from Benghazi, attacked the government naval ships that had been pounding the city from the sea. According to independent news sources, only one ship was hit, while the rebels claimed they hit three warships, of which two sank. After a few hours, most of the city was under government control, however, in order to avoid surprise attacks by hidden rebels during the night, the tanks retreated to the outskirts of the city. The rebels thought they had won. However, just before midnight, a new round of artillery fire hit Ajdabiya, coming from the loyalist forces that were all around the town. [11] [22] [23]

Brega Town in Cyrenaica, Libya

Brega, also known as Mersa Brega or Marsa al-Brega, is a complex of several smaller towns, industry installations and education establishments situated in Libya on the Gulf of Sidra, the most southerly point of the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in the former Ajdabiya District, which in 2007 was merged into the Al Wahat District. The town is the center of Libya's second-largest hydro-carbon complex.

Artillery Heavy ranged guns or weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

Airstrike Attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission

An airstrike, air strike or air raid is an offensive operation carried out by aircraft. Air strikes are delivered from aircraft such as blimps, balloons, fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters and drones. The official definition includes all sorts of targets, including enemy air targets, but in popular usage the term is usually narrowed to a tactical (small-scale) attack on a ground or naval objective as opposed to a larger, more general attack such as carpet bombing. Weapons used in an airstrike can range from aircraft cannon and machine gun bullets or shells, air-launched rockets, missiles, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles to various types of bombs, glide bombs and even directed-energy weapons such as lasers.

On 16 March, fighting continued with neither side having the upper hand in the battle or in full control of the town. [24] Government forces returning from the front said in interviews that rebel resistance was fierce. During the day, a force of rebel reinforcements, coming from Benghazi, came to within a few kilometers from the eastern entrance to the city before they were engaged by loyalist troops. They made a small corridor to link up Benghazi with Ajdabiya, but pro-Gaddafi troops still had a strong presence on the eastern outskirts of the city. Also, rebels had managed to retake the southern entrance to the city, while the western entrance was still under government control. Three rebel helicopters had attacked pro-Gaddafi forces on the highway at the west entrance where they were preparing for a final push into the city with more weapons, ammunition and troop reinforcements coming in from Sirte. [10] [25]

Just after midnight on 17 March, government troops attacked the southern gate of the city. After three hours of fighting they had retaken it. Later during the morning loyalist forces closed the corridor on the eastern side of the city. With this, the city was once again firmly surrounded. While the fighting was going on in Ajdabiya, more government troops landed from the sea, in an amphibious attack, at the small oil port town of Zuwetina, that is to the north on the road between Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The town fell quickly to loyalist forces. [26] However, rebel leaders claimed that they had surrounded the government landing force and were engaging them. [27] The next day the rebels claimed, several of their fighters, along with a number of civilians, were killed and 20 government soldiers captured in fighting at the port. [28]

Zuwetina Town in Cyrenaica, Libya

Zuwetina is a coastal town and oil-exporting port in the Al Wahat District of the Cyrenaica region in north-eastern Libya. From 1987 to 2007 Zuwetina was in the former Ajdabiya District. The oil terminal in the small harbor is operated by the Zuwetina Oil Company. The town's primary activities relate to oil production and transshipping crude oil. It is about 180 km south west of Benghazi. The port was the site of skirmishes between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 Libyan civil war.

Second phase

With a no-fly zone put in place on 19 March, and air-strikes on Gaddafi's force's supply and tank convoys, the rebels on 20 March, started an advance from Benghazi to attempt to reach Ajdabiya. [29] Along the way, they retook the town of Zuwetina. [30] On 21 March, advancing rebel forces from Benghazi attempted to attack Ajdabiya, trying to relieve the rebels inside the city and drive out the loyalist troops. However, their attack was repelled by government troops supported by fire from tanks and multiple rocket launchers. The rebels retreated to a checkpoint 19 kilometres (12 mi) from the city. [31] [32] That night, U.S. aircraft fired on some loyalist positions at Ajdabiya, that were reported to be shelling the city. [6]

2011 military intervention in Libya 2011 NATO military intervention in Libya

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, ostensibly to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The United Nations' intent and voting was to have "an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute crimes against humanity ... imposing a ban on all flights in the country's airspace – a no-fly zone – and tightened sanctions on the [Muammar] Gaddafi regime and its supporters." The resolution was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War, and military operations began, with American and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. French jets launched air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles. Despite the use of foreign airstrikes, the intervention did not consist of foreign ground troops. The Libyan government response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi's forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane despite the country possessing 30 heavy SAM batteries, 17 medium SAM batteries, 55 light SAM batteries, and 440–600 short-ranged air-defense guns. The official names for the interventions by the coalition members are Opération Harmattan by France; Operation Ellamy by the United Kingdom; Operation Mobile for the Canadian participation and Operation Odyssey Dawn for the United States. Italy initially opposed the intervention but then offered to take part in the operations on the condition that NATO took the leadership of the mission instead of individual countries. As this condition was later met, Italy shared its bases and intelligence with the allies.

The next morning, rebels, along with a Guardian reporter that was with them, claimed that the plumes of smoke from the city were from government targets that were hit by the U.S. air-strikes the previous night. [33] The rebels claimed that at least three loyalist tanks were destroyed at the eastern entrance to the city by Coalition air-strikes. [34] An Al Jazeera news crew filmed the wreckage of one tank at a checkpoint that was established by the rebels as part of the frontline. [33]

On 23 March, coalition jets launched air-strikes against Gaddafi forces at the eastern gate. [35] People fleeing the city stated that only the center of the city remained in rebel hands while the suburbs were under government control. [36] Reporters from the Independent were led on a two-day tour of Ajdabiya by the government and saw no evidence of large-scale destruction that was claimed by the rebels. [37]

On 24 March, Gaddafi's forces were still holding the main east and west gate areas of the city and most of the town, except the city centre, and managing to hold off the advancing rebel troops from entering the city with the help of mortar and artillery fire. [38] Late on 24 March, some outside rebel forces managed to get into Ajdabiya, and the situation in the city was becoming fluid, with large parts of the town changing sides. [38] During the night, British fighter jets launched air-strikes on Gaddafi force's tanks and armored vehicles. [5]

By 25 March, the western and central part of the city were controlled by the loyalists while the eastern part was controlled by the rebels. [39] Early in the morning, the opposition council relayed a message to Gaddafi's forces in the city through local tribal leaders. They called upon the loyalists to lay down their weapons and surrender. However, government troops refused the offer of surrender and the rebels were starting to mass on the edge of the city for an offensive to attack Ajdabiya. During the afternoon, four rebel multiple rocket launchers, that were brought to the frontline, started firing on loyalist positions. Government artillery responded to the attack. [40] Just before evening, the rebel offensive on the Gaddafi controlled areas of the city was called off after forward rebel units were repelled by loyalist armored units at the gates of the town further continuing the stalemate. [41]

During the night, some rebel units were still managing to get into the city through the corridor established the previous evening [42] and British aircraft destroyed seven loyalist tanks in and around the city. [43] By this point, the city was divided between the loyalist-held western side and the rebel-held eastern side.[ citation needed ]

On 26 March, rebel fighters in Ajdabiya claimed to be in control of the city, a claim confirmed by Al Jazeera reporters on the ground. [44] Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said government forces pulled out of Ajdabiya after another night of coalition strikes, Reuters reports. He accused Western forces of directly aiding the rebels. [45] Rebels then headed to Brega and managed to capture the city. [46] [47]

Al Jazeera received reports that pro-Gaddafi Libyan army general Bilgasim al-Ganga was captured by rebels during the night of 25 March. [46]

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Timeline of the 2011 Libyan Civil War and military intervention (June–15 August)

The Libyan Civil War began on 17 February 2011 as a civil protest and later evolved into a widespread uprising. After a military intervention led by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States on 19 March turned the tide of the conflict at the Second Battle of Benghazi, anti-Gaddafi forces regrouped and established control over Misrata and most of the Nafusa Mountains in Tripolitania and much of the eastern region of Cyrenaica. In mid-May, they finally broke an extended siege of Misrata.

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