TRIPOLI, Libya — A battle between Libyan troops and rebels spilled over the western border into Tunisia on Friday, drawing a sharp rebuke of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from the neighboring government.
Clashes along the Tunisian border have escalated since Thursday, posing a new challenge for Gadhafi within the western half of the country where he must consolidate his control to cling to power. Rebels captured most of the east early on in the uprising against Gadhafi that began in February.
On the other major front in western Libya, NATO foiled attempts by regime loyalists to close the only access route to the besieged rebel city of Misrata, intercepting boats that were laying anti-ship mines in the waters around the port. The port is the only lifeline for the city of 300,000, which has been under siege for two months.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said he was unaware of the attempted mine-laying, but said the government is trying to prevent weapons shipments from reaching the rebels by sea. He said aid such shipments must be coordinated with the authorities and preferably should come overland.
The government offensive on the Tunisian border along with shelling that killed 15 in Misrata on Friday and the attempt to mine the Misrata port show the regime is redoubling efforts to crush stubborn pockets of resistance in the west.