Sunday, June 12, 2011

Libyan Military Forces Surround Ziltan to End Western-backed Rebel Unrest

Gaddafi troops surround Libyan city after clashes .

Sunday, 12 June 2011 10:12

Troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were surrounding the city of Zlitan, just 160km east of Tripoli, yesterday, rebels said, after fighting broke out there that could open up the coastal road to the capital.

Sporadic clashes between Gaddafi’s forces and the rebels continued in Zlitan, a rebel spokesman said, after the rebels took control of some parts of it. He said the situation was calmer than on Friday and the toll remained 22 rebels killed.

Zlitan is one of three towns that are largely government controlled between the rebel-held Misrata and the capital. Were it to fall, it could allow the anti-Gaddafi uprising to spread from Misrata, the biggest rebel outpost in western Libya, to Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli.

Gaddafi’s forces also shelled for the first time the world heritage-listed city of Gadamis, 600km southwest of Tripoli on the Tunisia and Algerian border, overnight, opening a new front in the five-month civil war.

A Reuters correspondent in Tripoli heard no new Nato bombings yesterday. Rebels in various flashpoints also said there were no new air strikes.

World powers have given mixed signals on how the war might play out, with Russia trying to mediate reconciliation. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last Friday he had offered a “guarantee” to Gaddafi if he left Libya, but received no reply.

Rebels said the oasis town of Gadamis with a population of about 7 000 people, mainly Berbers, was under attack after an anti-government protest in the old Roman city last Wednesday.

“Gadamis is being shelled by Gaddafi forces, according to witnesses in the town,” spokesman Juma Ibrahim said from the rebel-held town of Zintan in the Western Mountains.

The old town was de-populated by Gaddafi in the 1990s and its inhabitants moved into modern buildings. It was not clear if the attack hit the old town, a labyrinth of narrow, underground passages and houses known as the “Pearl of the Desert”. — Reuters.

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