Troops loyal to longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have capitalised on an apparent slowdown in the frequency of coalition air strikes in the east and have pushed back opposition rebels, taking the strategic oil town of Ras Lanuf.
Regime forces shelled rebel fighters with mortars and possibly Grad rockets on
Wednesday, forcing them to retreat from Bin Jawad through Ras Lanuf, more than 200 kilometres east of Sirte, Gaddafi's well-defended hometown.
The reversal for Libya's nascent opposition came after their forces had made a speedy, two-day advance from Ajdabiya under the protection of international air cover.
Things are also not going well in Misurata, the only rebel-held town in western Libya, where at least 18 civilians were killed today:
Gaddafi's forces are launching intensive and vicious military campaigns against us in Misurata [says a rebel spokesman]. They are determined to capture the city. Today was tough for the rebels.
(Photo: Libyan rebels flee from Ras Lanuf to Uqayla, 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Ras Lanuf, on March 30, 2011, as loyalist forces overran the Libyan key oil town. By Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)