The battle for Libya

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Marco Werman: Hi, I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. The battle for Libya continues and each day seems to bring a shift in the perception of who's got the upper hand. Today forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi apparently won more than they lost. Colonel Gaddafi's troops pushed back rebel forces in the oil town of Ras Lanuf. Gaddafi's troops are also reported to have resumed artillery attacks on the city of Zawiyah, near the capital Tripoli. We reach reporter Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times earlier today at his hotel in Tripoli. He said the rebels in Zawiyah claim that they've repelled three previous assaults by Gaddafi forces during the past three days.

Borzou Daragahi: They have however conceded that they've suffered some serious casualties. That people have been hospitalized. And they also claim, and this has not been verified, that Gaddafi's forces have attacked people inside the hospital or at least have tried to. They say that morale is high and that they're going to continue the battle. There is some suggestion that there is a certain level of coordination between the rebels in Zawiyah and rebels in other rebel controlled areas but that has not been confirmed. Another key battle ground in the west of the country is the city of Mizratah which is about 60 miles east of the capital. And we've heard again, reports that the government forces are using armored tanks specifically to enter into the city center and try to dislodge the rebels. Now the rebels that we've talked to said that they have managed to easily subvert this strategy by basically jumping on to the tanks using light weapons, using knives even, to enter into the tanks and essentially attack the tank drivers and have destroyed they claim, several tanks that have taken part in this strategy. And it sort of points to the outdated nature of the Libya military and I've read some reports to that effect as well.

Werman: How well supplied, generally speaking, are these rebel forces, Borzou? I mean presumably they're using Libyan military hardware and munitions and at some point they're going to run out. Is that what Gaddafi's waiting for?

Daragahi: I think there is a sort of seige strategey, sort of starving these folks out. There's also a little bit of a carrot like approach. They've offered the tribal elders money and amnesty if they get their young guys under control and cease and desist from confronting the central government. Apparently some of the tribal elders have accepted the deal but in a mark of just how much their world is changing, the younger people are rejecting any talk of a compromise. They say they're going to hold our until Gaddafi is overthrown. They're determined to overthrow the government and they're waiting for rebel forces from the east to arrive.

Werman: Borzou, we also saw a report today stating that Colonel Gaddafi is using Libyana, the main mobile phone company there to spread propaganda, specifically something about an anti-Gaddafi conspiracy. Have you hear anything about this?

Daragahi: Yeah, I mean their propaganda campaign is very intense; not just via cell phone messages but especially via state television. In fact, yesterday there was a huge victory celebration. People opening fire in the air with celebratory gun fire for hours and hours, people marching through the streets, and driving through town blowing their horns; claiming that they've had a great victory over the rebels. But when we scratched at the facts a little bit, it was basically well what are you celebrating because you haven't won anything. But you know that propaganda machine is so powerful and so ubiquitous that they managed to sort of convince themselves of their own facts and whip themselves into a celebratory frenzy based on nothing.

Werman: Los Angeles Times' Borzou Daragahi speaking with us from Tripoli. Thanks very much, Borzou.

Daragahi: It's been a pleasure.