AJDABIYAH, Libya - NATO aircraft hit six vehicles carrying Libyan government soldiers during an assault on the eastern town of Ajdabiyah on Sunday, killing at least 15.

The strikes appeared to have helped break an assault by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi on Ajdabiyah, a strategic town 150 km (90 miles) km south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

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In Brussels, NATO said it had destroyed 25 government tanks in air strikes during the day - 11 near Ajdabiyah and 14 on the outskirts of Misrata, the only rebel bastion in western Libya that has been under siege for six weeks.

"The situation in Ajdabiyah, and Misrata in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the (Gaddafi) regime," said Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, who commands NATO's Libya operations.

A Reuters reporter saw 15 charred and dismembered bodies scattered around still burning vehicles in two separate sites about 300 metres apart on the western outskirts of Ajdabiyah, which Gaddafi's forces had been attacking all day.

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Rebels said there had been two NATO air strikes.

"NATO has to do this to help us every single day. That is the only way we are going to win this war," said 25-year-old rebel Tarek Obeidy, standing over the bodies.

The rebels, who have long complained about what they see as a slow NATO response to government attacks, have applauded a more muscular approach over the weekend.

Misrata had come under sustained artillery and rocket attack since morning and there were clashes between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists who penetrated the town center.

But by early afternoon the rebels looked back in control and seemed to have cleared the town. They commanded key intersections and fired six rockets towards the west.

It was the most determined government assault on Ajdabiyah for at least a week.

Rebel Hazim Ahmed showed a Reuters reporter a large bloodstain in the corner of a schoolroom in the town.

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