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Rebel town ‘flattened’ by pro-Gaddafi troops

Troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi stepped up their counter-offensive against |opposition forces last night.

Pro-Gaddafi troops used tanks and aircraft to bombard the rebel-held town of Zawiyah, 30 miles from the capital Tripoli, vowing that it was a “final battle”. There were mixed reports about whether Zawiyah had fallen, but witnesses reported that the town centre had been “flattened” by the onslaught.

“Fighting is still going on now. Gaddafi's forces are using tanks. There are also sporadic air strikes,” said one resident.

The renewed battle for Zawiyah came as defectors from Libya's regular forces finally |appeared to be stepping forward to take over from enthusiastic but inexperienced rebels fighting daily battles with well-armed pro-Gaddafi troops in eastern Libya.

At a checkpoint at Brega, just east of the front line, there was evidence of trained soldiers in a place normally patrolled by |trigger-happy rebel fighters.

Four battalions comprising several thousand soldiers have moved from Libya's second city,

Anti-regime forces will hope that the soldiers' decision to |mobilise in support of the rebels could be a critical turning point in the conflict.

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