Gadhafi Forces Dig In as Uprising Nears Tripoli

A major city near the capital falls
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2011 7:04 PM CST
Gadhafi Forces Dig In as Uprising Nears Tripoli
Egyptian men who used to work in Libya stand by their belongings after they fled Libya at the Tunisia-Libyan border.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

(Newser) – Foreign mercenaries and Libyan militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi tried to roll back the uprising against his rule that has advanced closer to his stronghold in Tripoli, attacking two nearby cities in battles that killed at least 17 people. But rebels made new gains, seizing a military air base. The worse bloodshed was in Zawiyah, 30 miles west of the capital, Tripoli. An army unit loyal to Gadhafi opened fire with automatic weapons on a mosque where residents—some armed with hunting rifles for protection—have been holding a sit-in to support protesters in the capital, a witness said.

Zawiyah, a key city close to an oil port and refineries, is the nearest population center to Tripoli to fall into the hands of the anti-Gadhafi rebellion. Most of the eastern half of Libya has already broken away, and diplomats, ministers, and even a high-ranking cousin have abandoned Gadhafi. He is believed to be firmly in control only of the capital, some towns around it, the far desert south, and parts of Libya's sparsely populated center. And he's still making bizarre speeches. Click for more, including citizens in the east figuring how to govern themselves for the first time. (Read more Libya stories.)

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