To the rebels of eastern Libya, it was always a matter of when. On Wednesday morning, sooner than many had expected, Gaddafi’s men came for them.
A thundering burst of machine-gun fire just before 6.30am heralded the attack on the outskirts of Brega, 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.
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.