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Rebels in battle rift

Libya's rebel military struggled on Saturday to explain an apparent rift within its highest ranks while acknowledging its soldiers' role in a mistaken NATO bombing of rebel columns the night before.

world Updated: Apr 04, 2011 02:23 IST

Libya's rebel military struggled on Saturday to explain an apparent rift within its highest ranks while acknowledging its soldiers' role in a mistaken NATO bombing of rebel columns the night before.

The strike, which killed 13 rebels and injured seven, illustrated the hazards of conducting an aerial bombing campaign against a fluid and fast moving front line. Several cars and an ambulance were also incinerated, and opposition leaders said rebels may have been responsible for the bombing because they had fired their guns into the air in celebration.

"It was a terrible mistake, and we apologise, and we will not let it happen again," said Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, vice president and spokesman of the opposition's Transitional National Council.

The opposition and forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi increasingly appear locked in stalemate, with the rebels controlling most of the eastern part of the country but unable to oust the leader.

The opposition has said its soldiers have started to receive better training and clearer leadership.

But a day after the strike, the interim government sought to distance itself from a popular army commander it had earlier embraced. Khalifa Haftar, a former army colonel who recently returned to Libya after living for many years in Falls Church, was initially hailed by the Transitional National Council as a leader who could help discipline the new army and train its largely volunteer ranks.

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