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Libyan troops kill 8 rebels

world Updated: Jul 20, 2011 15:57 IST

Government forces in trucks disguised with rebel flags shelled opposition positions near the strategic eastern oil town of Brega, killing eight rebel fighters and wounding dozens more, officials said.

In an audio message directed at a rally of thousands in the town of al-Aziziya, south of Tripoli, embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi on Tuesday emphasised the importance of Libya's vast oil wealth to his regime, and called the civil war a battle "for our way of life."

Rebel forces have been pushing to seize the front-line town of Brega, which is home to an oil refinery and terminal, for nearly a week, but they say fields of land mines planted by Gaddafi's forces have slowed the advance.

The rebels are fighting in a residential area on Brega's eastern side and control about one-third of the town, spokesman Mohammed al-Rajali said.

Field commander Ahmed Maysawi said rebel forces were working to clear the mines so they can move forward while government troops are occasionally approaching in trucks disguised with rebel flags to shell rebel positions with mounted rocket launchers.

Mohammed Idris, a doctor at the hospital in the nearby city of Ajdabiya, said eight rebels were killed and dozens wounded yesterday. That raised to at least 34 rebels killed in five days of fighting, according to Idris.

He said the rebels had taken four prisoners, and one dead government soldier had been taken to the rebel hospital. It is unclear how many other government soldiers have been killed. The Libyan government rarely provides information on its casualties.

In his audio message, Gaddafi emphasised the importance of Libya's wealth and made a rare reference to the fuel shortages caused by Tripoli's international isolation that have made life hard in government-controlled areas.