Libyan rebels launched an assault on Zawiyah’s oil refinery Wednesday to drive the last of the forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi out of the city west of Tripoli and tighten their noose around the capital.
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 actual whereabouts are not known.
In Zawiyah, which controls the western highway linking Tripoli to Tunisia, Gaddafi forces were holding the refinery 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,” said rebel fighter Abdulkarim Kashaba.
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.
A rebel spokesman from the rebel-held city of Misrata to the east of Tripoli said rebels had found the buried bodies of civilians slaughtered by Gaddafi forces.