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Gadhafi Forces Attack Rebels Advancing West


Smoke rises from a military army base which fell to anti-Gadhafi rebels following an air strike by Libyan warplanes in Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 6, 2011

Smoke rises from a military army base which fell to anti-Gadhafi rebels following an air strike by Libyan warplanes in Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, March 6, 2011

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have launched air strikes and engaged in ground fighting with rebel forces advancing from the eastern part of the country.

Government forces pushed rebels out of the town of Bin Jawwad Sunday. A VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott who visited Ras Lanuf to the east said some rebels were regrouping there after the fighting in Bin Jawwad.

The rebels say they are going to continue fighting until they get to Mr. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte and eventually to the capital Tripoli.

Pro-Gadhafi forces remain in control of Sirte, about 150 kilometers west of Bin Jawwad. Earlier Sunday, rebel commanders said government loyalists were reinforcing the town.

To the west of Sirte, toward the capital Tripoli, residents of the rebel-held town of Misrata told news agencies by phone that government artillery and tanks were attacking Sunday. It is unclear if there were any casualties.

In Tripoli, heavy gunfire broke out before dawn Sunday and continued for at least two hours. Libyan authorities said the gunfire was to celebrate the retaking of the rebel-held cities of Misrata and Ras Lanuf. Residents and eyewitnesses in both those cities deny any government takeover.

Gadhafi supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli following the claims of the government successes, waving flags, honking car horns and firing guns into the air.

Mr. Gadhafi's government has retained control of Tripoli in western Libya while rebel forces trying to topple his government have taken over much of the east.

Protests against Mr. Gadhafi erupted in mid-February, with demonstrators calling for an end to his 42-year rule. The Libyan leader has refused demands to step down, at one point saying he expects to die a "martyr" in Libya.

Libyan government forces advanced with tanks Saturday into Zawiyah, the rebel-held town closest to the capital. Western news organizations say there was heavy shelling as the security forces attempted to push into the town.

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