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Rebels claim complete control of Misrata

Libyan rebels say they have taken full control of the strategic western port city of Misrata.

Mourners embrace near the body of a Libyan rebel, whom they say was killed in fighting in Misrata, Libya, Sunday, April 24, 2011.
Mourners embrace near the body of a Libyan rebel, whom they say was killed in fighting in Misrata, Libya, Sunday, April 24, 2011.
Image: AP Photo

LIBYAN REBELS HAVE taken full control of the western port city of Misrata, rebel fighter said Sunday, but suggested it was too early for them to consider advancing to try to confront Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces around the capital.

Meanwhile, the head of Britain’s armed forces, General David Richards, urged NATO to widen the range of targets the alliance’s planes are allowed to hit in the effort to stymie the Gaddafi’s regime’s attacks on protesters. Richards’ remarks, published in The Sunday Telegraph in London, warned that “more intense military action” was needed or the conflict could end in stalemate.

In Misrata, rebel fighter Abdel Salam described the situation in Misrata as static.

“The situation is almost frozen, as the rebels are in full control over Misrata,” he said. “The rebels are not engaged in any major fighting fronts with Gaddafi forces.”

He denied earlier, conflicting reports suggesting that that rebels were advancing toward the western city of Zlitan, which would be the next step on the road to the capital Tripoli.

“The rebels agreed that it is better not to move forward or open new fronts,” he said.

He added: “It will be a big risk to advance. Anything could happen and cost us heavy causalities. This is not the right decision to take right now.”

The rebels control most of eastern Libya, while Gaddafi controls most of the west, including Tripoli. Misrata — about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli — is the only rebel stronghold in the west, and the rebels were forced to advance and fall back and then advance to take it.

More than 1,000 people died in Misrata in the fighting and shelling.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court prosecutors are putting the final touches to their case against three Libyan leaders on charges of murder and persecution in the brutal crackdown on anti-government rebels.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will file a 74-page document with nine annexes outlining the allegations and seeking arrest warrants for the three Libyan leaders considered most responsible for the atrocities.

Moreno-Ocampo has not revealed the names of the three, but Gaddafi is widely expected to be among them.

The prosecutor said Sunday he was “almost ready for trial.”

On Libya’s western borders with Tunisia, Tunisian forces thwarted a push by 200 of Gaddafi forces aboard some 50 off-road vehicles into Tunisian territory, the government-run TAP news agency reported.

Libyans had been trying to enter Tunisia in a bid to retake the strategic Dhehiba border crossing, controlled by Libyan rebels for the past few weeks.

Tensions have flared on the border as Tunisia has struggled to restore stability after an uprising earlier this year overthrew its president and sparked other popular revolts around the Arab world.

The Tunisian military sent tanks, armored vehicles and reinforcement troops to the Tataouine region on its southern border with Libya in response to the latest tensions Saturday, the agency said.

- AP

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