Clashes as Libyan rebels try to press Gaddafi stronghold

BENGHAZI, Libya - Libyan rebels clashed with troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday as the rebels tried to put pressure on the last main bastion of Gaddafi's forces along the Mediterranean coast, a rebel spokesman said.
Rebels are approaching Sirte, Gaddafi's home town, from two sides and are hoping to negotiate the surrender of its defenders. But the rebels say Gaddafi's hardcore loyalists in the town 450 km (280 miles) east of Tripoli have vowed to fight to the death. Gaddafi's whereabouts are not known and there has been some speculation he could have fled to Sirte, a town of about 100,000 people including many members of his tribe.Gaddafi's forces withdrew from the eastern oil towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf towards Sirte this week and are making a stand at a place known as the Red Valley, about 120 km (80 miles) east of the pro-Gaddafi stronghold, said a rebel spokesman, Mohammad Zawawi.
Fighters from the central city of Misrata are moving from the west towards Sirte, and are now about 50 km (30 miles) away, he said. "Gaddafi's forces in the Red Valley are firing at us with rockets. A lot of our forces are up there with tanks and artillery and they are building a new defense line before Ben Jawad," said Zawawi, referring to a small town on the coast road.
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