Libyan Rebels Claim Control of Key Refinery

Posted August 18th, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Libyan rebels say they have taken control of a strategic oil refinery west of Tripoli and seized a nearby town.

Rebels said Thursday that they had gained control of the refinery in Zawiya, a town about 50 kilometers west of the capital. Residents say opposition forces control most of the town. The government denies the claims.

Opposition fighters have been clashing with forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as the rebels push toward Tripoli.

The rebels said Thursday they have gained control of Sabratha, a coastal town west of Zawiya.

Meanwhile, the Libyan government has called for a cease-fire. Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told reporters in Tripoli that an end to what he called NATO airstrikes on the Libyan people was the first step in ending bloodshed.

On Wednesday, fresh clashes erupted between pro-Gadhafi forces and rebels on the eastern front in the strategic city of Brega. Rebels said 18 of their fighters were killed and at least 33 had been wounded on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military deployed two more armed Predator drones for surveillance operations over Libya, where opposition fighters remain heavily dependent on NATO air power.