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Libyan rebels advance as Gaddafi followers remain defiant

Monday March 28, 2011 08:23:21 AM, DPA

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Cairo/Tripoli: Libyan rebels took control of several towns from government forces Sunday as they advanced westwards with an eye on leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

However, followers of Gaddafi are planning a massive march from Sirte towards Bin Jawad town, which the rebels recaptured Sunday, Al Jazeera reported.

Besides Bin Jawad, the rebels said they had taken control of Ras Lanuf, the key oil port of al-Burayqa and the town of Uqayla. Their next key target was Sirte, some 400 km northeast of Tripoli.

After Sirte, the rebels have their sights set on Misurata, Libya's third-largest city, which they believe will be a gateway to the capital, Tripoli.

"If you are home, on the street, in the car, you are not safe. Misurata is not safe," a resident said in an audio message posted on the website, Feb17voices.

"Our city has been besieged since February 19. We suffer so much, but we are strong people," he said.

The Opposition website Burneiq reported that Gaddafi's tanks shelled the besieged areas of Misurata again, despite attacks by coalition forces on Gaddafi's forces there.

The rebels were moving westwards after recapturing the key town of Ajdabiya Saturday and forcing government troops to retreat.

The latest advance puts the fighters in control of all oil terminals in the eastern part of the North African country.

Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC Sunday that the "political dynamic" of the conflict would change significantly if the rebels gained control over the country's oil exports.

A Tripoli resident said coalition forces had bombarded the southwestern city of Sabha and Sirte, where sources said three fishermen were killed.

Since March 19, a US-led coalition that includes Britain and France has been taking out Libyan air defences and ground forces in order to enforce a UN-imposed no-fly zone to protect civilians.

NATO leaders were to meet later Sunday to decide whether the military alliance should take over control of all UN-mandated military operations in Libya.

NATO has so far agreed to perform two of the tasks authorized by the UN - enforcing the no-fly zone and patrolling an arms embargo in the Mediterranean.





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