Libya rebels fight to take key city near capital

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Zawiya (Libya), Aug 14: Libyan rebels and troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi fought for control of Zawiya today, a day after opposition forces pushed from the western mountains into the strategic city in their most dramatic advance in months.

The city of 200,000 just 50 kilometers west of Tripoli attempted to rise against Gaddafi months ago, near the start of Libya''s civil war, but was crushed.

Zawiya has been a key target for rebels waging a new offensive from the mountains in Libya''s far west, near Tunisia''s border.

An Associated Press reporter in Zawiya said pro-Gaddafi snipers were shooting at rebels from an overpass deep in the city.

Sporadic loud booms could be heard echoing across the city, and a column of heavy black smoke rose over the outskirts.

"Freedom, freedom," chanted a group of men greeting rebels inside Zawiya.

One of those in the crowd rolled up his pants to show black-and-blue bruises he said came from a beating by pro-Gaddafi forces who have been in control of the city for months.

Zawiya''s residents rose up against the regime shortly after the revolt against Gaddafi began in February.

But Gaddafi''s forces retaliated and crushed opposition in the city in a long and bloody siege in March.

Many of Zawiya''s rebels fled into the western mountains and were among the lead forces advancing on the city yesterday.

AP

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