Libyan Rebels Seize Towns Close to Capital

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Libyan rebels have seized two small towns south of Tripoli in 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.

In the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi, a senior Chinese diplomat met with leaders of Libya's rebel Transitional National Council.

The Chinese foreign ministry official said Wednesday the TNC was an “important dialogue partner.” He said China was “deeply concerned” about the civil war in Libya and called for a political solution to the conflict as quickly as possible.

The meeting came as thousands of Libyans rallied in Benghazi, waving European and rebel flags and calling for Mr. Gadhafi's departure.

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

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