* Rebels retreat for 2nd time under heavy fire
* "We have our brothers in Sirte," rebel commander says
* Civilian casualties in ambush
(Adds rebels retreat from Bin Jawad for second time, state tv)
By Mohammed Abbas
RAS LANUF, Libya, March 6 Libyan rebels
retreated on Sunday from Bin Jawad which is on the road to
Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's hometown and a prize they are keen to
capture, after withering fire from the army.
Hundreds of rebels in pickups and vehicles suddenly tore
back at high-speed to the key rebel-held oil town of Ras Lanuf,
with many saying they feared an army advance. It was their
second retreat from the town in a day.
"Gaddafi's cut us to pieces. He's firing on us with tanks
and missiles. I don't know what we're going to do now," Momen
Mohammed told Reuters.
Some of the lightly-armed fighters wanted to return to the
frontline while others wanted to regroup in Ras Lanuf and resume
the attack on Monday morning.
"We made a mistake leaving Bin Jawad. We should have
stayed," Ismail Gattani said. "There's been a push by Gaddafi,"
Mohammed said, adding: "We saw more of Gaddafi's vehicles come
Rebels captured Bin Jawad, 160 km (100 miles) from Sirte, on
Saturday but then pulled back, which let the army occupy houses
and mount an ambush earlier on Sunday. Rebels were forced into a
full retreat to Ras Lanuf port to regroup for another attack.
After they advanced, an artillery duel took place with the
rebel frontline firing rockets and mortar bombs at the army
which returned fire with similar weapons plus heavy artillery.
"The firing is sustained, there is the thud of shells
landing, the whoosh of rockets, puffs of smoke and heavy machine
gun fire in the distance," a Reuters correspondent said earlier.
Doctors at Ras Lanuf hospital said two dead and 31 injured
had arrived from fighting in Bin Jawad. Witnesses said many dead
and wounded could not be reached because of the fighting.
One man said he had seen a civilian building hit by a bomb
during the day's fighting.
"The wounded people shouted at us to get their children out.
We left the dead," said Khaled Abdul Karim, a rebel fighter,
returning from the first retreat.
"I saw civilians shouting and screaming. They had been
pushed out of their homes. I saw about 20 to 25 people who
looked dead, they were civilians or rebels," said Ashraf
Youssef, a rebel fighter.
TRIBES IN SIRTE
Some rebels said the people of Bin Jawad had sided with
Gaddafi's forces in the ambush. "There has been treachery. I saw
people in civilian clothes firing on us," said Ibrahim Rugrug, a
rebel fighter. His comments were echoed by others.
But some in the group criticised Rugrug's accounts, saying:
"They are our brothers. They were forced by Gaddafi."
One rebel commander said earlier his forces had pushed west
from Bin Jawad and controlled the town of al-Nawfaliyah, 120 km
(75 miles) from Sirte, where they would await a call from
citizens in Sirte before advancing. There were differing
accounts of whether al-Nawfaliyah was still rebel-held.
"It's not difficult to take Sirte," Colonel Bashir Abdul
Gadir told Reuters. "I think 70 percent of regular people are
with us there, but they have asked us not to go into Sirte
fearing heavy battles. We're going to wait till they call us to
let us know when they are ready."
The colonel, speaking in Ras Lanuf, said there were about
8,000 rebel soldiers between Ras Lanuf and al-Nawfaliyah and
Gaddafi's forces were reinforcing the Libyan leader's hometown
of Sirte, further west down the coast, from the south.
"We have our brothers in Sirte and they won't accept this
situation. They know he is a killer and stole our money and they
are going to be with us," Abdul Gadir said, denying government
statements that it controls Ras Lanuf.
In the eastern second city of Benghazi, where the uprising
began, Colonel Lamine Abdelwahab, a member of the rebel military
council for the Benghazi area, said:
"We have received contact from members of the Gaddafda tribe
(Gaddafi's tribe) in Sirte who want to negotiate ... There will
be no negotiations. They are asking us what we want. We say we
don't want Gaddafi (in power)."
Abdelwahab said soldiers belonging to the Ferjan tribes were
executed for refusing to fight rebels. "They (the Ferjan tribe
in Sirte) are joining the rebellion because of this atrocity.
The problem is that they are unarmed. Only the Gaddafda were
armed by the regime."
Gaddafi may have more than 20,000 fighters in Sirte, he
said, adding that the city houses the Saadi (a son of Gaddafi)
battalion which includes four brigades, in addition to his armed
(For more on unrest in N.Africa and Middle East [ID:nLDE71O2CH])
(Additional reporting by Tom Pfeiffer in Benghazi and Alex
Dziadosz in Ras Lanuf; Writing by Peter Millership; editing by