Military forces of Muammar Gaddafi fired a Scud missile for the first time since the country’s six-month conflict began, U.S. defense officials have said.
The missile was fired on Sunday from a location about 50 miles east of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown. It landed in the desert, east of the coastal oil town of Brega, without injuring anyone.
Officials believe that Gaddafi’s military forces have over 200 Scuds in their armory. The missiles have a range of about 500 miles and can carry a warhead of up to around one ton.
VOA News reported that Carmen Romero, NATO spokeswoman, said the Gaddafi government use of the ballistic missile showed how “desperate” it has become as the rebels continue to close in on the country’s capitol, Tripoli.
Romero said in a news conference that many civilian lives could have been lost when the Scud missile was fired.
Ahmed Bani, Rebel spokesman told BBC, that the launching of a Scud was a clear sign of desperation. "This man will use any weapon necessary to keep his regime going and resume his rule, even for few hours," he said.
The attack from Pro-Gaddafi forces comes as the rebels continue to move towards Tripoli. Libyan rebels have reportedly advanced in two key towns that control access to the capital from the west and the south.
Rebels say they have control over most of Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, and have also seized Surman, 40 miles west of Tripoli, and Gharyan, 50 miles to the south – residents have not confirmed this.
Control of these three towns would allow the rebels to cut off Tripoli from a strategic highway to the south and another going west to Tunisia.
According to the U.S. State Department, the Libyan rebel progression is cutting off Gaddafi’s forces in Tripoli and is greatly increasing the pressure on him.
Col Gaddafi said, in an audio message broadcasted on Libyan state TV, on Monday, "The end of the colonizer is close and the end of the rats is close," he said.
He tells his supporters to “prepare for the battle to liberate” Libya.
However, the White House believes that the Gaddafi’s end is near.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that Gaddafi's days are numbered," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.