Libyan mountain refugees tell of fearsome assault

Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:09pm GMT

* Heavy shelling in Western Mountains towns

* Some 30,000 refugees have fled to southern Tunisia

* Region's Berber people long distrusted by Gaddafi

By Tarek Amara DEHIBA-WAZIN BORDER CROSSING, April 25 (Reuters) - Refugees fleeing Libya's Western Mountains told of heavy bombardment by Muammar Gaddafi's forces as they try to dislodge rebels clinging to a precarious hold in remote Berber towns.

The capture of the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing by rebels last week has let refugees flee in cars, as well as on foot along rocky paths, swelling the numbers sheltering in southern Tunisia to an estimated 30,000 people.

While the world's attention has been on the bloody siege of the western rebel stronghold of Misrata and battles further east, fighting is intensifying in the region known as the Western Mountains.

"Our town is under constant bombardment by Gaddafi's troops. They are using all means. Everyone is fleeing," said one refugee, Imad, bringing his family from Kalaa in the heart of the mountains.

With desert on both sides, the mountain range stretches west for over 150 km (90 miles) from south of Tripoli to Tunisia, inhabited by Berbers who are ethnically distinct from most Libyans and long viewed with suspicion by the government.   Continued...

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