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Gaddafi regains opposition-help city, but rebels gain oil port

Gaddafi’s forces regain control of Az Zawiyah, 50 miles from Tripoli, while rebel forces take control of Ras Lanouf port.

Pro-Gaddafi supporters stage a small rally during a state-arranged tour for foreign journalists yesterday.
Pro-Gaddafi supporters stage a small rally during a state-arranged tour for foreign journalists yesterday.
Image: Ben Curtis/AP

LIBYAN REBELS HAVE have captured the oil port town of Ras Lanouf from pro-Muammar Gaddafi forces, their first military victory in what could be a long, westward march from the opposition-held east of the country towards the capital Tripoli.

Witnesses said that Ras Lanouf, about 87 miles east of the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte, fell to rebel hands on Friday night after a fierce battle with pro-regime forces who later fled.

An Associated Press reporter who arrived in Ras Lanouf this morning saw Libya’s red, black and green pre-Gaddafi monarchy flag adopted by the rebels hoisted over the town’s oil facilities.

Earlier, Gaddafi’s forces broke through rebel lines at an opposition-held city near Tripoli, in a dawn attack that could prove crucial to the regime’s defense of the Libyan capital, witnesses said.

They said the forces loyal to the country’s longtime leader were inside Az Zawiyah, 30 miles west of the capital, after overcoming rebel positions with heavy mortar shelling and machinegun fire. They said the shelling damaged government buildings and homes.

The hours-long attack started at dawn and the rattle of gunfire and explosions could be heard as the witnesses spoke to The Associated Press by phone.

They said several fires were still raging in Az Zawiyah this morning, and that heavy black smoke hung over many parts of the city of some 200,000 people. They added that snipers were shooting anyone on the streets, or residents who venture out on their homes’ balconies, on sight.

The city’s rebels, they said, had retreated to take new positions deeper inside the city.

“We will fight them on the streets and will never give up so long as Gaddafi is still in power,” said one of the rebel fighters. - AP

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