TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 19 (UPI) — The British air force sank a boat of troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at the end of a battle with rebels for Libya’s last operational oil refinery.
Pro-Gadhafi forces fled by sea after a firefight that ended the leader’s control of the oil facility in Zawiyah, about 30 miles west of Tripoli, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday. The pro-Gadhafi forces were engaged in a rear-guard battle for the refinery, the regime’s last source of fuel for the capital.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said the government troops commandeered a tugboat to try to regroup after a NATO airstrike destroyed their armed vehicles at the refinery.
“Although a challenging target, small and under way at sea, a direct hit was scored with a laser-guided Paveway bomb, which sank the vessel,” Maj. Gen. Nick Pope said.
Rebels patrolling the refinery near Zawiyah Thursday said they were glad the facility was intact and ready to resume production in days. They said two soldiers were killed during the five hour assault Wednesday night.
“The battle did not last long. After five hours we had defeated the main defensive action at the gate and the soldiers tried to take to sea,” a rebel commando said.
Rebel fighters said Wednesday they had taken control of Ghariyan, a town south of the capital.