A thundering burst of machine-gun fire just before 6.30am heralded the attack on the outskirts of Bregga, a sand-strewn service town about 150 miles south of Benghazi. The loyalist forces had crept in during the night, patiently set up in an industrial area on the city limits, and dug in.
« They arrived in 60-70 Toyota trucks, » said Wais Werfali, 40, who works in a nearby ammonia production plant. « They have set up a perimeter and are using families from the area as human shields. »
By sunset, the battle had been joined by rebels streaming down from the city of Ajdabiya. A decisive phase in this war for control of eastern Libya had begun.
At least six people were killed in skirmishes that appeared to intensify throughout the afternoon and dozens more were wounded.
Most were rushed to an ill-equipped medical clinic at the centre of this low-set concrete town, where overwrought staff did the best they could to tend to battle wounds that were clearly not in the family medicine handbook.
« Bring blood, bring blood, » a nurse screamed as she stood near a middle-aged man bleeding from a bullet wound in the groin. An Indian doctor joined in: « The people from the town have come here all morning to donate blood, » he said. « We have some, it’s over there. »