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In Libya, ‘Everyone Is Frightened’ as Gadhafi’s Forces Drive Toward Benghazi

March 16, 2011 at 6:52 PM EDT
Opposition forces in Libya appear to be losing significant ground in the battle against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's troops. Thousands of people in eastern Libya fled as pro-government forces, which continued assaults on the rebel stronghold of Ajdabiya, advanced. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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GWEN IFILL: Now to Libya, where the opposition appears to be losing ground.

Jeffrey Brown has that story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Thousands of people poured out of Eastern Libya today in a panicked rush into Egypt to escape Moammar Gadhafi’s troops.

ABDULLAH AL SWISI, resident of Benghazi (through translator): All Gadhafi’s forces are mercenaries and foreigners, not Libyans. And all Libyans are united. And they don’t want Gadhafi or anything related to him.

JEFFREY BROWN: As they fled, another rebel stronghold was in danger of falling. The city of Ajdabiya was under assault by Gadhafi’s planes, tanks and troops. And witnesses reported heavy damage.

MAN (through translator): There is complete terror here now. Everyone is frightened.

JEFFREY BROWN: Government forces had already seized Ras Lanuf and Brega in their drive to reconquer a region that fell into opposition hands early in the month-long uprising. The fall of Ajdabiya would open a gateway to Benghazi, the major city in the east.

Protesters there put on a brave face today at a rally against Gadhafi’s rule. At similar demonstrations this week, many insisted they would not surrender.

MAN: We die for Benghazi, you know, even if he comes to inside Benghazi here. It will be war.

JEFFREY BROWN: Closer to Tripoli, Gadhafi’s fighters also blasted rebels today in Misrata, after retaking Zawiyah in a bloody battle last week.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council discussed imposing a no-fly zone on Gadhafi’s air force. But the Libyan leader’s son Saif al-Islam said it would do no good.

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, son of Moammar Gadhafi (through translator): Military operations are over. Within 48 hours, everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi. Whatever the decision, it will be too late.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton in Egypt today said she hopes for a U.N. vote on an international response no later than tomorrow.