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Thursday, June 30, 2011

LIBYAN RESISTANCE: Rebel leader denies receiving weapons from France

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By Borzou Daragahi / Los Angeles Times / June 30, 2011, 4:27 a.m.

A French newspaper quotes a military official as saying that assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles were airlifted to rebels in the western mountains. But Col. Mokhtar Milad Fernana, overall commander of the rebel forces, says his men never received such arms.

Libyan rebel forces

New recruits by Libyan rebel forces use guns and explosives as they take part in a three-week course at a training facility for rebel fighters in Benghazi. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters / June 29, 2011).
Reports that France has been secretly supplying weapons to Libyan rebels engaged in daily battles with Moammar Kadafi's forces in the Nafusa Mountains stunned the world. It also surprised the overall commander of the rebel forces, who said Thursday that his men had never received any such weapons.
"Whoever gave us these arms should come here and tell us where he put them," said Col. Mokhtar Milad Fernana.

Although the front in eastern Libya has grounded to a stalemate, rebels in the mountainous region in the west appear to be gaining momentum in their fight against Kadafi, as they regularly capture towns and villages that were under his control.

Earlier in the week, rebel forces captured a desert arms depot filled with military vehicles, ammunition for rockets and large-caliber weapons they have used to fend off Kadafi. Rebels are attempting to push against Kadafi's forces east toward the town of Gharyan and northward toward the coastal areas near Zawiyah.

A French military official in Paris confirmed Wednesday that weapons had been dropped to the rebels in western Libya after the French newspaper Le Figaro, citing an intelligence memo and unnamed officials, said France airlifted crates full of assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Milan anti-tank missiles to rebels in the western mountains.

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