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Medical official: 10 Libyan rebels killed in push for eastern oil town
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) ' Ten rebel fighters were killed in an advance on the strategic oil town of Brega in eastern Libya on Saturday, with rebel forces sweeping the outskirts for land mines so they could move in, officials said.
The advance came after Libya's main opposition group was recognized by more than 30 nations, including the U.S., as Libya's legitimate government. Friday's decision potentially frees up billions of dollars in cash that the rebels urgently need.
Libya's civil war has fallen into a stalemate since the mass uprising seeking to oust ruler Moammar Gadhafi broke out in mid-February. Rebels have set up an interim administration in the eastern city of Benghazi and seized control of the port city of Misrata and much of the western Nafusa mountain range. Gadhafi controls the rest from his stronghold in the capital Tripoli.
But rebel forces ' mostly volunteers armed with captured weapons ' have failed to make significant advances recently, even with NATO bombing Gadhafi's troops under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians.
A rebel seizure of the front line town of Brega on the Mediterranean would represent a breakthrough in the civil war.
Rebel forces approached Brega late Friday, only to find land mines and face government shelling that killed 10 and wounded many more early Saturday, said local medic Mohammed Idris.
Rebel forces captured four government soldiers, he said. It was unclear whether any other government troops were killed.
Speaking in Benghazi Friday, Mustafa Fagezly of the rebel's military council said fighters began their attempt to take the town on Thursday, but faced government shelling and land mines and at one point pulled back.
On Saturday, rebel forces remained on Brega's outskirts but were advancing slowly to minimize casualties as a technical team cleared mines. He said they'd found 250 so far.
Libya's opposition received a boost Friday when more than 30 nations including the U.S. recognized their National Transitional Council. Diplomatic recognition of Gadhafi's foes means the U.S. will soon be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gahdafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks. Other countries holding billions more in such assets will be able to do the same.