Rebels Seize 2 Towns Near Libyan Capital

Posted July 6th, 2011 at 8:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Libyan rebels have seized two small towns south of Tripoli following a six-hour gunbattle with forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi, while opposition fighters east of the capital suffered heavy losses in clashes with government troops.

Rebel forces said Wednesday they had gained control of al-Qawalish and Kikla, both within 100 kilometers of Mr. Gadhafi's stronghold of Tripoli. The next larger town to the north is Garyan, which controls a main road leading to the capital.

Opposition fighters also pushed further from their western stronghold of Misrata toward the town of Zlitan, but came under heavy artillery fire. Medics say at least 14 rebels were killed and 30 wounded in fighting near the city on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, thousands of Libyans rallied in rebel-held Benghazi, where they waved European and rebel flags and called for Mr. Gadhafi's departure.

Also Wednesday, NATO said it struck a fuel depot near the key eastern oil town of Brega, a frequent site of clashes between rebel fighters and Mr. Gadhafi's troops.

Separately, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said allied warplanes have hit 2,700 targets in Libya since NATO began airstrikes in March. He said Mr. Gadhafi's “war machine” had been “considerably degraded.”

Rasmussen also announced that a delegation of Libya's rebel Transitional National Council will meet with NATO and EU officials in Brussels next week.