Libyan Rebels Say They Control Zlitan

Posted August 19th, 2011 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Libyan rebels say they have seized control of the western town of Zlitan, following intense battles with forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Rebels said Friday that they had pushed into the center of the town, which is about 150 kilometers from Tripoli. The claim could not be independently verified. They also said at least 30 fighters were killed in clashes between the two sides.

The rebels — with NATO assistance — have been advancing slowly toward the capital, Tripoli.

The opposition fighters engaged in a second battle on Friday in Zawiya, a town 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. The clashes with pro-Gadhafi forces have come a day after rebels said they had seized control of an oil refinery in Zawiya as well as Sabratha, a town west of Ziwaya.

Earlier Friday, a series of explosions rocked Tripoli. Bombs fell near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's main compound and several other areas of the city.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim condemned NATO, which has been helping the rebels with with a campaign of airstrikes. Ibrahim's criticism Friday came after reports that his brother had been killed in a NATO airstrike on Zawiya on Thursday.

NATO began launching airstrikes against Libya in March, supporting the rebels who have been fighting to put an end to Mr. Gadhafi's 42-year rule.

Also, the International Organization for Migration has launched an effort to evacuate “large numbers” of foreigners from Tripoli. The relief group said Friday that foreign nationals in the capital were becoming “increasingly vulnerable” and now want to leave.