Gaddafi brutalizes rebel forces near Tripoli, claims control of townMarch 5th, 2011 - 3:05 pm ICT by ANI
Tripoli (Libya), Mar. 5 (ANI): Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have reportedly broken through rebel defenses at an opposition-held city closest to Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Reports quoted witnesses as saying that Gaddafi’s troops have entered Zawiya, which is located 30 miles west of Tripoli, after overcoming rebel positions with heavy mortar shelling and machine gun fire.
On Friday, there were reports of Gaddafi’s troops brutally battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.
The elite Khamis Brigade, a militia named for the Qaddafi son who commands it, surrounded Zawiya and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, the New York Times reports.
At least 35 rebels and an unknown number of militia soldiers are reported to have died in the fighting, with more than 60 rebels missing and more than 50 wounded.
Among the dead, rebels said, was Col. Hussein Darbouk, a defected Libyan officer who had been commanding rebel forces in the town.
By nightfall there were contradictory reports about the fate of the city. While a government spokesman said that its forces had retaken Zawiya, the rebels said they still controlled the city up to its gates, though some said they worried about the night ahead - especially after midnight.
Two truckloads of government security officers showered hundreds of protesters with tear gas in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura.
Doctors at the demonstration said that at least two people were wounded.
The rebels are also fighting Gaddafi’s forces in the eastern town of Ras Lanuf, the site of a military base and an oil terminal.
The road north of town thundered with explosions, and all day long, trucks mounted with guns and swarming with rebel fighters raced from the city of Brega, about 25 miles to the east, to the front.
The better-armed Gaddafi forces hammered the rebels with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, and witnesses said the wounded kept arriving into the night at the Brega hospital.
There was a huge explosion outside Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and the cradle of the revolution.
A rebel spokesman said it occurred at an ammunition storage facility, and it was unclear whether the explosion was caused by an airstrike or some other attack, or an accident.
About 130 foreign journalists have gathered in Tripoli as guests of the Gaddafi government. On Friday, the government informed the journalists that it planned to fly them away from potential Friday protests to a Gaddafi stronghold in the south. When the journalists refused to go, the government temporarily locked them in their hotel, before arranging a bus trip to a central square that is a hub for pro-Gaddafi rallies. (ANI)
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