Libyan rebels say Tripoli encircled; US says Scud fired

August 16, 2011 05:37

Rebels say they have seized Garyan near Tripoli, encircle Tripoli; Gaddafi urges fight against rebels he calls "rats".

2 minute read.

Libyan rebels celebrate

Libya rebels celebrate 311. (photo credit: Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

ZAWIYAH- Libyan rebels said they had seized a second strategic town near Tripoli within 24 hours, completing the encirclement of the capital in the boldest advances of their six-month-old uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

A US defense official also said on Monday that Gaddafi's forces had fired a Scud missile for the first time since the uprising against his rule began six months ago, but it landed in the desert and injured no one.

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The missile was fired on Sunday morning from a location about 50 miles east of Sirte, Gaddafi's home town, and landed east of the coastal oil town of Brega, the official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear what Gaddafi might have been targeting, the official said, without speculating about the motives behind a missile launch that came in the wake of recent rebel gains that have increased pressure on the Libyan leader.

In a barely audible telephone call to state television overnight, a defiant and apparently isolated Gaddafi called on his followers to fight rebels he referred to as "rats".

Rebels said they captured the town of Garyan south of Tripoli on Monday. That could not be immediately verified, but if true it would cut off the other main route to the capital.

"Garyan is fully in the hands of the revolutionaries," a rebel spokesman, Abdulrahman, said by telephone.

"Gaddafi has been isolated. He has been cut off from the outside world."

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim acknowledged in remarks broadcast on state television that rebel fighters were in Garyan. "There are still armed gangs inside the city. We are able to drive them out," he said.

Rebels may still lack the manpower for an all-out assault on Tripoli, but are hoping their encirclement of the capital will bring down Gaddafi's government or inspire an uprising.

In the past, however, they have frequently failed to hold gains, and a fightback by Gaddafi troops could yet break the siege.

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