AJDABIYA, Libya — An apparent NATO airstrike slammed into a rebel combat convoy Thursday, killing at least five fighters and fueling anger among antigovernment forces after the second bungled mission in a week blamed on the military alliance.
Rebel commander Abdul Fattah Younes described the attack outside the strategic oil port of Brega as a likely NATO accident but said it would be a "bigger mistake" if it was waged by Moammar Gadhafi's pilots and exposed holes in NATO's efforts to ground Libyan warplanes.
Another rebel commander, Ayman Abdul Karim, said the tops of targeted rebel vehicles were marked with yellow under advice by NATO to identify the opposition forces.
In a sign of the hair-trigger tensions along the front, thousands of civilians and fighters raced out of the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya after reports that Gadhafi's forces gained ground in the chaos after the bombing.
Some militiamen shouted insults against NATO as they retreated.
On April 1, a NATO airstrike killed 13 rebel fighters in eastern Libya. An opposition spokesman had described that incident as an "unfortunate accident."
Meanwhile, the U.S. general who led the Libyan mission before NATO's takeover said Washington still provides some strike aircraft to NATO. Army Gen. Carter Ham also told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the Pentagon may be forced one day to consider ground forces in Libya if the battle lines remain indefinitely stalled.
Journalists detained: Forces loyal to Gadhafi took four journalists into custody, several publications reported. They were identified as American freelance reporters James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis, Spanish photographer Manu Brabo and South African photographer Anton Hammerl.
Syria: Trying to keep a large minority population from joining antigovernment protests, Syrian President Bashar Assad said the country would grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Kurds in the northeast who have been counted as illegal immigrants since a controversial census in 1962.
Bahrain: Doctors Without Borders on Thursday condemned Bahraini security forces for the arrests of injured opposition supporters who were being treated at medical facilities.
Egypt: Zakariya Azmi, chief of staff of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, was arrested Thursday in a corruption investigation, the highest ranking ex-official to be jailed since Mubarak stepped down in February after a popular uprising.