Libya rebels say they hold gains south of capital

By REUTERS
August 7, 2011 23:21

 
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NALUT, Libya - Libyan rebels said on Sunday they were firmly in control of the town of Bir al-Ghanam, a staging post about 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli, rejecting a government assertion they had been pushed back.

A small settlement in the desert, Bir al-Ghanam is also the closest point the rebels have come to Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold in the capital, lending it a strategic role in the rebels' six-month campaign to end Gaddafi's rule.

Rebel commanders in the region said on Saturday they had seized control of Bir al-Ghanam in an offensive in which four anti-Gaddafi fighters had died.

Taking the town -- which lies on a highway leading north to the Mediterranean coast and on to Tripoli -- would break weeks of stalemate during which rebels have been unable to make big advances despite NATO air strikes on government forces.

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