Residents blame Gaddafi forces after explosions in Benghazi

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:49 AM
Residents blame Gaddafi forces after explosions in Benghazi

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Large explosions were heard in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi early on Saturday, and residents said that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces were attacking the rebel stronghold.

Libya had declared a unilateral ceasefire on Friday after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, but the United States had said the ceasefire was not being respected.

A fighter jet could be heard over Benghazi, a Reuters correspondent in the city said, adding that the explosions were strong enough to shake a building.

Rebel forces in the city were returning fire.

"The explosions started about 2 a.m. Gaddafi's forces are advancing, we hear they're 20 km (12 miles) from Benghazi," Faraj Ali, a retired man who was with a group of men, said.

"It's land-based fire. We saw one aircraft," he added.

Jamal bin Nour, a member of a neighborhood watch group, told Reuters he had received a call to say government forces were landing by boat, but it was impossible to confirm the information.

The city has been rife with rumors and hearsay that is virtually impossible to verify due to lack of communications.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas, writing by Michael Roddy, editing by Miral Fahmy)