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Libyan rebels celebrate victory in Ajdabiya

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Charred turrets 20 feet away from the tanks they were once attached to are evidence of precision strikes in recent days by British Tornadoes. Some of the men who crewed them were caught inside. Abandoned military uniforms here and there are momentos of frightened men who fled to avoid a similar fate.

On a small rise on the northern approach to town from Benghazi, the rebel capital, the destroyed armor appeared to have been deployed in defensive positions, a measure of the expansive interpretation of “protecting civilians” the international coalition has been using here.

Mr. Zwei isn’t complaining. Over the past two weeks, he says, snipers shot randomly at citizens on the streets and shelling from tankers off the coast fitted with grad missiles hit neighborhoods unpredictably. A whole family on his street was taken away by Qaddafi’s forces and has not been heard from again, he adds.

Less damage than expected

During the stand-off with Qaddafi's forces, small bands of young rebels continued to set ambushes for the roughly 1,000 government gunmen in town even as missile and tank fire rained down on their city. This morning, the rebels assaulted Qaddafi’s forces in their camps on the traffic circles around dawn.

Ajdabiya itself is in better shape than some feared after weeks of fighting. In the 7th of October neighborhood on the west side of town, many of the high-rises are scarred from missile and tank fire. On the east side of town, the walls of homes and businesses are pockmarked from firefights in recent days, but most of the city is intact.

Mohammed Abdel Kareem, one of a handful of doctors at the Ajdabiya hospital who remained throughout the siege, says it’s far too soon to estimate casualties. In the past two days, he says the hospital has received 100 civilian casualties, and this morning the morgue received 50 dead – but many of those are Qaddafi soldiers killed in the airstrikes.

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