Wadi El-Hai: Libya`s rebels claimed to
have captured a key mountain town that is a strategic gateway
on the road to Tripoli, driving out forces loyal to Muammar
Gaddafi on Saturday in an intensified western offensive aiming to
push toward Gaddafi`s stronghold in the capital.
The town of Gharyan lies at the northern end of the Nafusa
Mountains, and Gaddafi`s hold on the town had been a sticking
point for rebels who have taken control of most of the range.
The town lies on the main road leading directly from Nafusa to
Tripoli, 50 miles (80 kilometres) to the north on the
Rebels have been trying for weeks to take Gharyan, and
NATO air-strikes have hit Gaddafi`s forces several times in
Gomma Ibrahim, a spokesman for rebels in the Nafusa area,
said rebel fighters clashed for about four hours with the
remains of regime forces in the town mostly young fighters and
mercenaries who then withdrew. The claims could not
immediately be confirmed independently.
The capture solidifies the rebels` flank as they push
ahead with a new offensive launched from further west in the
Nafusa range, pushing down into the coastal plain where
Gaddafi`s forces have been concentrated. The rebels are hoping
to take several cities along the coast before moving on to
Rebel commander Fathi el-Ayeb said his fighters were 10
miles (15 kilometres) away from Gaddafi-held Zawiya, a key
target in the offensive. He said the rebels scouts who
returned from Zawiya claim the local residents there were
waiting for the rebels to reach the city`s outskirts to join
their fight against Gaddafi.