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Libyan rebels make significant advances

Meanwhile, thousands of foreigners in Tripoli still need to be evacuated.

The town of Zlitan has been the scene of heavy fighting over the past months and today rebels claimed they had won a victory over Gaddafi's forces there.
The town of Zlitan has been the scene of heavy fighting over the past months and today rebels claimed they had won a victory over Gaddafi's forces there.
Image: PA

MUAMMAR GADDAFI’S HOLD on Libya looked more tenuous than ever today as rebels seek to advance on his stronghold of Tripoli from three sides.

The Guardian reports this evening that rebel commanders have boasted significant advances and will now be able to attack Tripoli from the south, east and west.

The Opposition claims to have taken control of the key town of Zlitan, which has been a battleground between the two sides for months.

A spokesman for the rebels said today’s fighting was bloody and 31 of their fighters were killed.

Al Jazeera reported this evening that one of its correspondents in Zlitan could confirm the rebel victory there and described “extraordinary scenes of jubilation”.

In the west, rebels in Zawiyah cleared more pro-Gaddafi troops from the town, which is about 50km west of Tripoli.

If the rebels completely take the key town, the Opposition would have control of both sides of the main coastal road into Tripoli. The Opposition has already blocked Gaddafi’s supply route from Tunisia.

Today’s coups mean the six-month civil war has shifted slightly in the favour of the rebel opposition but Gaddafi’s bloody fightback signals that the leader is not yet ready to cede his 41-year-old grip on the North African state.

Fighting in Zawiyah continues this evening with Gaddafi’s forces firing rockets, mortar shells and anti-aircraft guns.

Meanwhile, NATO air strikes continued in Tripoli and loud explosions could be heard across the city on Friday.

The Tripoli government claimed that spokesman Moussa Ibrahim’s brother was killed by the military organisation.

The Guardian also reports rumours that the Tripoli compound of Gaddafi’s brother-in-law and intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, has been destroyed.

Trapped

The International Organisation for Migration today said that it is working to evacuate the growing number of migrants in need of help in the Libyan capital.

The group said it has received numerous requests from foreign nationals in Tripoli who now want to leave. It is understood that there are thousands of Egyptians who have asked to be evacuated. Previously, Egyptians had been evacuated by road through Tunisia but escalated fighting means this is no longer possible.

The IOM is considering a sea evacuation but it is unclear if the authorities will cooperate.

When fighting started in February there could have been up to 2.5 million foreigners in the North African country. Many of those based in Tripoli stayed on despite the ongoing violence.

-Additional reporting by the AP

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