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Libyan Government Closes in on Former Rebel Strongholds

Pro-Gadhafi militiamen guard a checkpoint in Bin Jawad March 12, 2011

Pro-Gadhafi militiamen guard a checkpoint in Bin Jawad March 12, 2011

Libyan government forces are advancing on the city of Misurata, one of the few western regions to remain under rebel control.

Western news reports say forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi launched air strikes over the city, Saturday, which is about 200 kilometers from Tripoli.

Meanwhile, pro-Gadhafi forces are celebrating apparent victories over rebel positions in the country's east. The Libyan government led journalists on tours of the towns of Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad on Saturday.

Government loyalists waved posters of Mr. Gadhafi in Ras Lanuf as reporters viewed buildings that had been freshly painted to cover the anti-government graffiti. An oil facility near the town continued to burn after being bombed earlier.

In Bin Jawad, reporters viewed a gutted police station and other buildings that were heavily damaged.

Al Jazeera
said Saturday that one of its cameramen had been killed in an ambush near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The television station did not say who it thought was behind the attack.

Separately, the French news agency says several thousand women marched through Benghazi on Saturday, voicing support for a "no-fly" zone over the country.

Protests erupted in mid-February against Mr. Gadhafi, with demonstrators calling for an end to his hold on absolute power in Libya since 1969. The Libyan ruler has refused all demands to step down, at one point saying he expects to die a "martyr" in his north African homeland.

The U.N. says its humanitarian coordinator for Libya arrived in Tripoli on Saturday. The U.N. says Rashid Khalikov will hold talks with Libyan official about providing access to aid workers who will assess the needs of civilians affected by the unrest.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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