Libya rebels battle for refineries in east and west

ZAWIYAH, Libya, (Reuters) – Rebels to the west and  east of Libya’s increasingly isolated capital fought forces  loyal to Muammar Gaddafi yesterday for control of oil  facilities vital to winning the six-month-old civil war.

In Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, they assaulted  a coastal oil refinery to try to drive the last Gaddafi forces  out and tighten their noose around the capital.

A rebel spokesman said a pipeline to Tripoli was cut. There  was no word on the outcome of their assault after nightfall.

In Brega, on the eastern front, rebel forces said they had  suffered 18 killed and 33 wounded on Tuesday and Wednesday in  their battle to dislodge Gaddafi forces from the oil port and  refinery, where they have been fighting for many days.

Fifteen of the rebels were killed on Tuesday and three on  Wednesday, said spokesman Mohammad Zawawi.

Libyan state television showed video of Gaddafi supporters  at the Brega terminal on Wednesday chanting the leader’s name.

After 41 years of supreme power, 69-year-old Gaddafi seems  isolated. Rebel forces are closing in from the west, south and  east, cutting off his Tripoli stronghold on the Mediterranean  shore. Gaddafi’s whereabouts are not known.

Aided by NATO’s fighter-bombers, assault helicopters and  naval blockade, the rebels have transformed the battle in the  last few days after many weeks of stalemate.

Zawiyah controls the western highway linking Tripoli to  Tunisia. Gaddafi forces were holding the refinery there and  harassing rebels in the city with shelling and sniper fire.

“There are some snipers inside the refinery facility. We  control the gates of the refinery. We will be launching an  operation to try to take control of it shortly,” a rebel  fighter, Abdulkarim Kashaba, said earlier yesterday.

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