March 29, 2011 / 7:31 AM / 8 years ago

Libya rebels pull back under Gaddafi army fire

(Repeats to remove extra word in headline)

NEAR BIN JAWAD, Libya, March 29 (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi’s forces fired heavy weapons at Libyan rebels on the road east of the Libyan leader’s home city overnight, pushing them back towards the town of Bin Jawad, rebel fighters said.

Rebels had raced along the coastline retaking several oil towns after Western air strikes were launched. But their charge westwards has met resistance as they have neared Sirte.

Dozens of rebel fighters and civilians were gathered with pick-ups and cars outside Bin Jawad, about 150 km (100 miles) from Sirte.

“This is a problem road,” said 28-year-old rebel officer Hamad al-Awani, who appeared to be in charge of the group. “Yesterday we were hit by Gaddafi so we pulled back.”

He said pro-Gaddafi forces used rockets, rocket propelled grenades and medium-calibre weapons to push back rebels gathered east of Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace and a military base.

Other rebel fighters and their civilian supporters said they believed settlements on the approach to Sirte had posed a potential threat because their inhabitants backed Gaddafi. (Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer in Cairo; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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