Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Libyan rebels capture oil hub Berga

A tank blocks a road in Zawiya, western Libya (AP)

Libyan rebels battling Muammar Gaddafi's troops along the country's Mediterranean coast said they have captured all of the strategic eastern port city of Brega.

Rebel military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Bani said fighters gained control of the industrial section of Brega, after having captured its residential areas last week.

Brega's capture is an important boost for the rebels. It contains Libya's second-largest hydrocarbon complex and is where the country's main oil fields feed into for refining.

"We have liberated Brega and all of it is under our control," Col Bani told reporters on Saturday. "The fighters are in the port and have taken the refineries."

The clashes with Gaddafi forces killed two rebels and left fifteen injured, according to rebel spokesman Mohammed Idris. His claim could not be immediately verified and officials in the Libyan capital Tripoli made no comment on it.

Brega is a wide strip of desert made up of two residential sections about six miles apart, followed by the oil refineries near the port on the Mediterranean Sea. Brega, about 125 miles south-west of the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi, fell under rebel control briefly in March, but was recaptured by Gaddafi's forces shortly afterwards.

The fighting around the city has gone back and forth since then, with the rebels struggling to keep their ground.

Rebels are closing in on Gaddafi, pushing back his fighters in a fierce battle in one key coastal city and seizing another town as they advanced toward his remaining bastion: the capital, Tripoli. The territory remaining under Gaddafi's control has been shrinking dramatically in the past three weeks, with opposition fighters moving closer to Tripoli, from the west, south and east.

Libyan rebels have also captured the main square in Zawiya after more than a week of heavy fighting in the strategic city west of Tripoli.

An Associated Press reporter has entered the square, which was full of rebel trucks and troops.

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