Libyan rebels say NATO airstrikes hit their forces

A Libyan rebel, left, looks through his binoculars as his fellow rebel makes a signal as shells explode at a distance on the frontline near Brega, Libya, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The French foreign minister defended NATO airstrikes in Libya against mounting rebel complaints Wednesday, saying it has become hard to distinguish Moammar Gadhafi's forces from civilians and friendly forces.

AJDABIYA, Libya — Rebel fighters are claiming that NATO airstrikes hit their forces on the front lines and touched off a retreat from the outskirts of the oil port of Brega.

Several militiamen fleeing back toward rebel-held Ajdabiya in eastern Libya say they saw several of their tanks destroyed by apparent NATO bombing runs. Dozens of vehicles were seen racing from the front lines Thursday, including ambulances and rebel vehicles outfitted with weapons.

The retreat comes after rebel leaders complained that NATO airstrikes were carried out too slowly to disrupt forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

A NATO official in Brussels says the alliance will look into the rebel claims but he had no immediate information.