Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi are preparing an arsenal of Scud missiles for a full-scale assault on rebel positions, opposition sources told The Washington Times.
Meanwhile, rebels tightened their stranglehold Wednesday on Tripoli by cutting off a crucial oil and gas pipeline that supplies the capital, one of the Gadhafi regime’s few remaining strongholds.
In addition, the rebels celebrated the opening of their embassy in Washington on Wednesday, one day after saying they expect to see victory in the 6-month-old civil war by the end of August.
Several rebel sources told The Times that pro-Gadhafi forces have fired two Scud missiles at their positions in the past week. The unguided, surface-to-surface missiles have a range of about 185 miles and can cause extensive damage.
NATO has confirmed one of the launches, saying it detected on Sunday a Scud-type missile fired from Col. Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold in Sirte. The missile landed three miles east of the oil port of Brega in an area controlled by the rebels.
A colonel who served as a weapons-deployment specialist in the Libyan army before his defection this year said he thinks the two Scud launches are part of an effort by pro-Gadhafi forces to “calibrate the missiles to inflict heavy damage.”
“There is a grave danger. Gadhafi is in the process of perfecting the act,” he added.
The colonel, who spoke from Tunisia on the condition of anonymity, served in the 32nd Battalion led by Col. Gadhafi’s son Khamis. The battalion has been responsible for much of the destruction wreaked by regime forces.
He said most of the regime’s Scuds are kept west of Sirte at the Libyan air force base of Ghardabiya and that both missiles that were recently launched originated from that site.
The rebels said they had discussed the Scud stockpiles with NATO and the U.S. before the recent launches and have shared more details about the missiles this week.
The regime has a stockpile of about 200 Scuds, said a former Libyan army officer who spoke on background. North Korean ballistics specialists helped extend the range of the missiles from 124 miles to 185 miles in 2003, he said.
Two rebels and a Western official said the Scuds are old and imprecise, and many might not be operational.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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