Khamees Suwairi, a member of the Libyan special forces who had joined the opposition, sat with a bazooka in the white sand with a gaggle of other armed men. Another young man prayed for the fighters as explosions reverberated around them. Then Suwairi, who had come from Ajdabiya in the morning with other rebels, advanced with his group toward the university to attack.
“We have to protect our families. They have women and children there,” he said, claiming that Gaddafi’s forces had taken families hostage. “We will die for our freedom.”
Another young rebel, Hayb Mohammed, 22, ran in and out of the battlefield to resupply the fighters with ammunition. Ambulances with blaring sirens filled the roads behind them. Doctors and paramedics flowed into Brega to help.
“God will protect us. We are willing to die,” Mohammed said.
Moments later, as the loyalist forces attempted to retreat from near Brega’s university, a warplane dropped a powerful bomb on the place where Suwairi had waited before dashing off to fight.
By 6 p.m., the Gaddafi forces had pulled back, fighters said, and the town was recaptured.
About 5,000 rebel fighters then advanced farther west to strengthen the front line, while others planned to move toward Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte before marching on to Tripoli.
“We fought them off, and Brega is under our control,” said Omar Sultan, 33. He said he was heading 15 miles west of Brega to regroup with other fighters.
On the roads, dozens of trucks sped west, and men yelled their intentions to go to the capital. Some were soldiers and special forces members, while others were young men with little or no training.
The number of casualties from the battle was not immediately clear. At least six dead and 13 wounded were brought to the main hospital of Ajdabiya, and doctors were expecting more casualties to arrive by Wednesday night.
Earlier, a paramedic said 14 people were killed in the fighting.
Approximately 200 loyalists fled Brega after the rebel counterattack, the Associated Press reported.
The loyalists reportedly came from Sirte, the Gaddafi stronghold about 200 miles west of Brega.
In Tripoli, Gaddafi said the rebellion that has claimed large swaths of his county has been exaggerated and miscast by foreign media as a popular revolt. With some rebel forces calling on the international community to provide military support, Gaddafi warned that any intervention would lead to “a bloody war.”
“Thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya,” Gaddafi said in a lengthy address to supporters that swung between humility and threats. He rejected claims that the country was in danger of food shortages, saying that Libyans calling for international aid were “guilty of treason.”