Pipeline sabotage deals devastating blow to Gaddafi
Rebels accused of 'starving' Tripoli
LIBYAN rebels have inflicted a devastating blow on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Tripoli stronghold with a strike on a key oil pipeline that has triggered widespread electricity blackouts in the capital.
Advances by rebel forces in the west and east of Libya in recent days threaten to encircle the regime.
Rebels claimed to have taken Bir Ghaneim, a fiercely contested town that is the gateway to the coastal road to Tunisia, and a Qatari shipment of arms on Saturday bolstered their advance on Zlitan in the east.
The severe disruption of electricity in Tripoli as a result of an attack at the end of July has enraged residents at the most sensitive time of the calendar.
Festivities to celebrate the Muslim month of Ramadan were launched last week amid temperatures of 40C.
Deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said rebel forces had sabotaged a section of a pipeline carrying fuel supplies to the regime's only electricity plant, knocking out one section and interrupting the flow through a second pipe.
As a result there would be permanent damage to the regime's generating capacity.
"The rebels turned off a valve and poured cement over it," he said. "It took two days to clear the mess but even then there are disruptions. These attacks are aimed at starving and displacing the Libyan people and causing a humanitarian crisis."
Blackouts are in force across Tripoli and residents breached the culture of fear to denounce the shortages.
A retired engineer shopping at a vegetable market said his home had no power for three days. "We want this to end, these conditions are very difficult," he said quietly.
"The lack of fuel, no electricity, foreign countries bombing us. People can't accept this. There has to be a solution. The other side won't accept Gaddafi, he has to recognise this."
Ramadan's two peak-demand periods -- 8pm when the Iftar meal breaks the day-long fast and the 3am feast before the dawn call to prayer -- are held in semi-darkness.
"We have gone back to candles," said a shop owner. "Libya is a rich country and this is what we have to put with."
No official figures for the drop in output have been released but the power cuts have even reached the al-Nasr district near Gaddafi's fortified complex.
Some areas have had no power for days while other districts have supplies for only a few hours a day.
The lack of gas for cooking and rising prices has also soured the festive season -- a canister of cooking gas costs up to €47, more than 20 times that in May.
The rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) had previously promised to leave Libya's basic infrastructure intact so that a post-Gaddafi government could function.
A special body, the Tripoli Task Force, has drawn up detailed plans that commit the rebels to targets for electricity output, numbers of schools open, medical provision, police patrols and other necessary services in the first month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)