Libya timeline: Rebels and Qaddafi's troops still battling for Brega
Now into the eighth week of Libya's conflict, Qaddafi's troops pushed the rebels to the outskirts of Brega just as the rebels had been preparing their first oil shipment to Qatar.
This timeline will be updated daily with the latest developments and Monitor coverage in Libya.
Week 8, April 3- 9
April 5: Rebels are pushed back again by Qaddafi's troops as the opposition government prepares its first oil export to Qatar. The exports will provide much-needed revenue for the rebel troops.
April 4: Italy becomes the third country to recognize the rebel government as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Rebels begin a push to retake Brega. Reports emerge that Qaddafi's sons are crafting a plan to take over for their father.
Week 7, March 27- April 2
April 1: An opposition leader says that rebel troops will agree to a cease-fire if Qaddafi agrees to pull all of his troops out of cities and to permit peaceful protests. The opposition will not back down on its demands for Qaddafi's removal from power. Reports emerge about secret meetings in Britain between British officials and Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi's son. According to the British press, Mr. Ismail was given the message that Qaddafi must go.
March 31: The US officially hands over command to NATO of air operations in Libya. Rebels have been pushed out of Brega and the front line is now somewhere between Brega and Ajdabiya, the last city before the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Qaddafi's troops continue laying siege to Misratah, while rebels still have control over in some parts.
March 30: In a major blow to Qaddafi, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa – a close confidante of Qaddafi and former intelligence chief – defects to the United Kingdom. The Obama administration discloses that it has CIA operatives on the ground with Libya's rebels, but says it has not yet decided whether to arm the rag-tag militias. By the end of the day, rebels look to be losing their grip on Brega.
March 29: US, European, and Arab leaders meet in London to discuss their roles in Libya now that NATO is slated to take over military command. They say they will help Libya craft a new "political future." After being halted outside Sirte on Monday, rebels are now being pushed back east by Qaddafi's troops.
March 28: A westward advance by rebel troops is halted about 50 miles east of Sirte, Qaddafi's hometown, by his forces. In the west, rebels lose control of part of Misratah after heavy shelling from Qaddafi's troops. Misratah, located about 130 miles east of Tripoli, has been the westernmost city under rebel control.
March 27: Rebels continue making gains, retaking several cities west of Ajdabiya, including the key oil town of Ras Lanuf.
Other Monitor coverage this week:
- Scott Peterson in Tripoli writes that there's so much false information coming from Qaddafi's supporters that journalists are skeptical of even those claims that appear accurate.
Week 6, March 20-26
March 26: As promised, rebels retake Ajdabiya, with eyewitnesses telling Reuters that Qaddafi's troops were seen retreating westward toward the oil town of Brega. President Obama, under pressure at home for US involvement in Libya, defended the international air campaign and said had "lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule ... the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized."
March 25: After British strikes on the remainder of Qaddafi's forces around Ajdabiya, rebels vow that the key eastern city will be in their hands within 24 hours. Meanwhile, Qaddafi keeps up his campaign of confusion with erratic statements and actions – though many true believers in Tripoli defend his philosophy and leadership as unerring.
March 24: Western forces step up their airstrikes in Tripoli overnight and into the morning in some of the biggest strikes seen since the campaign began. Qaddafi's supporters say that both military and civilian targets were hit and that dozens have died, but Western reporters say there is little proof of such high numbers. NATO is put in command of imposing the no-fly zone, but coalition forces remain in control of attacks on the ground.
March 23: Air strikes reportedly put pressure on Qaddafi's forces staging an assault in Misratah, the last rebel-held western city. In the east, Libyan civilians flee the besieged city of Ajdabiya, which rebels are struggling to retake, Murphy writes.
March 21-22: World leaders debate the March 17 UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians. Some leaders are turning against the resolution because they claim the operations have now gone beyond the scope of what they supported when they voted in favor of it. Meanwhile, NATO members debate whether and how to get NATO forces involved in the operation. On March 22, Qaddafi makes his first public appearance since the beginning of UN-authorized air strikes on March 19, vowing from his Tripoli compound not to surrender.
March 20: US and European forces execute air strikes near Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, which Qaddafi claims are actually coordinated assassination attempts. Foreign forces say they struck a military command center near the compound, while Qaddafi’s supporters insist the strikes hit the compound itself. Air strikes by US and European forces continue throughout the country.
Other Monitor coverage this week:
- Monitor reporter Scott Peterson, now posted in Tripoli, drives with a government escort from the Tunisian border to Tripoli. There is no sign of Libyan government troops withdrawing, as required by the UN resolution.
- Monitor reporter Dan Murphy writes from eastern Libya that despite the foreign intervention, rebels are struggling to make any gains against Qaddafi forces even in Ajdabiya, which hasn't had power in a week and remains largely cut off from the rest of Libya.
- Peterson observes from Tripoli that Qaddafi's rhetoric "appears disconnected from reality."
- Murphy writes that Ajdabiya will pose the real test for the question of whether NATO intervention will be enough to turn the tide in Libya.
Week 5, March 13-19
Qaddafi’s forces push hard into Libya’s east after a slow week and make it almost to the outskirts of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. Their advance spurs a strong UN Security Council resolution that calls for “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, including a no-fly zone. A blow-by-blow account of Qaddafi’s advance through eastern Libya is available here.
March 19: Qaddafi attacks rebel stronghold Benghazi, breaking the a ceasefire he declared the day before. World leaders meet in Paris to determine a course of action for the no-fly zone. Later that day, Western aircraft and missile strikes begin around Benghazi and along the road to Ajdabiya, leaving tanks and other vehicles belonging to Qaddafi's forces smoldering on the roads and reversing several days of gains by Qaddafi’s forces that brought them alarmingly close to retaking Libya’s entire east.
March 18: Qaddafi’s government declares a cease-fire, but his forces continue their assault on Ajdabiya.
March 17: Rebels are pushed all the way back to the edge of Benghazi, while Qaddafi’s forces regroup in Ajdabiya for an assault on the de facto rebel capital. UN passes Resolution 1973 late that evening, authorizing not only a no-fly zone over Libya, but “all necessary measures.”
March 16: Qaddafi’s forces take Ajdabiya, and Qaddafi’s son boasts that the rebels will be crushed within 48 hours. France takes the lead on the international push for a no-fly zone in a letter to the UN Security Council.
March 15: Qaddafi’s forces begin shelling Ajdabiya, the last major city before Benghazi. International support for a no-fly zone gains traction.
March 13- 14: Over the weekend, Qaddafi’s forces regain control of Ras Lanuf and Brega and begin their push toward Ajdabiya.
Other noteworthy Monitor coverage:
- Murphy writes from Benghazi as rebels in the city brace themselves for a fight and grow more desperate as Qaddafi’s forces draw closer and the UN dithers on the no-fly resolution.
- Murphy writes from Benghazi about the rebels’ ecstatic celebration when they learned of the UN approval of a no-fly zone.
Week 4, March 6-12
Qaddafi’s forces stage a counteroffensive to the rebels’ gains westward the previous week, first ousting rebels from Bin Jawwad and then loosening their grip on Ras Lanuf and Brega.
March 12: Arab League announces its support for a no-fly zone imposed on Libya and France and the UK back the announcement.
March 8: Qaddafi’s government denies opposition reports that Qaddafi is attempting to negotiate a resignation.
Other noteworthy Monitor coverage:
- In "Welcome to the Libyan front. Have a juice box," Murphy writes about "a rebellion desperate to press forward, but which time and again can’t get started." He returns to his hotel room to find rebels using his shower and watching TV.
Week 3, Feb. 27-March 5
Rebel requests for foreign intervention become more frequent as Qaddafi forces launch an offensive into Libya’s east. His offensive is halted by rebel forces, who manage a stunning push west over the course of three days.
March 5: Rebels take control of Bin Jawwad, about 30 miles west of Ras Lanuf. By the end of the day, rebels are not far from Sirte, Qaddafi’s hometown, which is about halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi.
March 3: Rebels stage their first counteroffensive against Qaddafi’s forces from the east, securing Brega and pushing another 40 miles west to take control of oil town Ras Lanuf.
March 1- 2: Qaddafi’s forces begin an offensive into Libya’s east, briefly wresting control of the oil town Brega from rebels. Rebels intensify their requests for foreign intervention. The US moves two warships closer to Libya in order to be in place for “humanitarian efforts” and emergency evacuations, but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warns against implementing a no-fly zone over Libya – an option several Arab nations and members of the UN Security Council are debating.
Feb. 28: Qaddafi’s bid to retake Zawiyah is rebuffed by rebel forces, while his forces begin carrying out air strikes on other Libyan cities.
Feb. 27: Two key western cities fall to the rebels, pushing Qaddafi’s forces back to his strongholds in Tripoli and Sirte, his hometown. Rebels appoint an interim prime minister for their transitional government: former justice minister Mustafa Abd el-Jalil, who was the first of Qaddafi’s government officials to defect.
Other Monitor coverage
- Murphy writes of a “stunning shift of mood” among rebels that shows Qaddafi can no longer cow them into submission.
- Murphy explains how Qaddafi is managing to hang on to power when neither Tunisia’s Zine Abidine Ben-Ali nor Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak could.
- Sub-Saharan Africans are trapped in Libya, scared of being mistaken by rebels for Qaddafi’s mercenaries.
- Stream of refugees slows as Qaddafi apparently prevents them from crossing into Tunisia.
Week 2, Feb. 20-26
Rebels take control of Benghazi and rapidly claim most of eastern Libya, then begin moving west. The international community condemns Qaddafi’s use of violence against protesters and begins discussing how best to respond. Qaddafi digs in his heels, dismissing the protesters as “rats” and “cockroaches.”
Feb. 26: The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Qaddafi and calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate Qaddafi for possible crimes against humanity. Earlier in the week, the US and European Union vote to impose sanctions of their own and to freeze possible Qaddafi assets in their countries. (RELATED: Five steps the international community is taking)
Feb. 25: Qaddafi tries to appease Libyans with promises to pay every family $400 as rebels close in on Tripoli.
Feb. 24: Rebels take control of Misratah, 120 miles east of the capital. Qaddafi’s forces bomb a mosque that had been taken over by protesters in Zawiyah, only 30 miles from the capital.
Feb. 23: French President Nicolas Sarkozy calls on the European Union to impose sanctions against Qaddafi.
Feb. 21- 22: World leaders and Libyan diplomats speak out against Qaddafi’s brutal tactics to put down protests, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Libya’s ambassador to the US. The death toll is estimated at more than 400. On Feb. 22, Qaddafi speaks on state television for the first time since protests began and vows to hang on to power. He blames the unrest on Western powers and Al Qaeda and, in an apparent attempt to undermine the validity of protesters' demands, says they were taking hallucinogenic drugs.
Other noteworthy Monitor coverage this week:
- WikiLeaks cables give insight into how Qaddafi has centralized his power.
- Qaddafi is relying heavily on sub-Saharan African mercenary fighters.
- Other countries are carrying out mass evacuations of their citizens in Libya.
- Monitor staff writer Dan Murphy arrives in eastern Libya. He files Feb. 23 from Tobruk after being ushered over the border without even being asked to show his passport.
- Murphy files again from Tobruk, which by now is being called ‘Liberated Libya.’ Young gun-toting Libyans are exuberant, but still fearful of a Qaddafi reprisal.
- Murphy files from Benghazi on how the rebels were able to (temporarily) gain the upper hand in most of Libya, describing "charred barracks and interrogation buildings, dozens of burned cars, and holes punched through the [Benghazi military] base's cement perimeter by backhoes and trucks." He also writes about their attempts at building a rebel government.
Week 1, Feb. 13-19
Fledgling protests begin on Feb. 15 and grow in response to harsh crackdowns by Qaddafi loyalists; rebels fight for control of Benghazi.
Feb. 19: Funerals for those who died in protests earlier in the week erupt into clashes when security forces fire on a funeral procession. Some call the event a “massacre.” Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 100 people have died.
Feb. 18: Protests have reached at least five different cities by this point, although not Tripoli, and the death toll is up to at least 24, according to Human Rights Watch.
Feb. 17: Unappeased, Libyans escalate the situation with a ‘day of rage.’
Feb. 16: Protests erupt again in Benghazi, despite the release of the human rights lawyer, and spread to a nearby town. Protesters call for Qaddafi’s resignation, a constitution, and a number of other reforms. In response, Qaddafi offers some concessions: the release from prison of more than 100 activists and salary increases for government workers.
Feb. 15: The first protests erupt in Benghazi overnight over the arrest of a human rights lawyer, who was later released. Protesters and police clash and at least 14 people are injured.