By Alexander Dziadosz
AJDABIYAH, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan rebels fled in headlong retreat from the superior arms and tactics of Muammar Gaddafi’s troops on Wednesday, exposing the insurgents’ weakness without Western air strikes to tip the scales in their favor.
It had taken more than five days of allied bombardment to destroy government tanks and artillery in the strategic town of Ajdabiyah before rebels rushed in and chased Gaddafi’s troops 300 km (200 miles) west in a two-day dash along the coast.
Two days later the rebels have been pushed back to close to where they started.
The Libyan army first ambushed the chaotic caravan of volunteers, supporters and bystanders outside Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, then outflanked them through the desert, a maneuver requiring the sort of discipline the rag-tag rebels lack.
The towns of Nawfaliyah, Bin Jawad and Ras Lanuf fell in quick succession to the lightning government counter-strike. Rebels showed no signs of trying to hold on to the next town, Brega, but carried on toward Ajdabiyah, where some regrouped.
Dozens of pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns milled around the western gate of Ajdabiyah. Confusion reigned.
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