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Rebels Seize 2 Towns Near Libyan Capital

Rebel fighters enter the village of Al-Qawalish after a battle to seize control of the town from forces loyal to Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi, July 6, 2011

Libyan rebels have seized two small towns south of Tripoli following a six-hour gunbattle with forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Rebels said Wednesday they had gained control of al-Qawalish and Kikla, which are both within 100 kilometers of the capital.

The next larger town to the north is Garyan, which controls a main road leading to Tripoli.

Meanwhile, thousands of Libyans rallied in rebel-held Benghazi, where some repeated calls for Gadhafi's departure.

In a separate development, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that allied warplanes have hit 2,700 targets in Libya since NATO began its airstrikes in March. He said Gadhafi's "war machine" had been "considerably degraded."

Rasmussen also announced that a delegation of Libya's rebel Transitional National Council will meet with NATO and EU officials in Brussels next week.

Separately, Libya announced plans to charge TNC leaders with a series of national security crimes. A judge in Tripoli said Wednesday that 21 officials in the opposition group would face charges.

Earlier this week, at least 11 Libyan rebels were killed in clashes with pro-government forces near the opposition-held city of Misrata. The Reuters news agency quotes medics who say 14 more rebels were killed in fighting near the city on Wednesday.

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