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Rebels claim capture of key port

Libyan rebels battling Muammar Gaddafi's troops along the country's Mediterranean coast have claimed they captured a key oil terminal that has repeatedly changed hands in the six-month-old civil war.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed al-Rijali said he was with the fighters in Brega when they gained control of the strategic port city, 125 miles south west of the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi, after three weeks of intense fighting.

"Brega is liberated," Mr al-Rijali said from nearby Ajdabiya, but he did not provide any details or a casualty toll.

His claim could not be immediately verified and officials in the Libyan capital Tripoli made no comment on it.

Brega fell under rebel control briefly in March, but was recaptured by Gaddafi's forces shortly afterward.

The fighting around the city has gone back and forth since then, with the rebels not managing to keep their ground.

Brega's capture would be an important boost for the rebels because whoever controls the strategic oil terminal, which is also Libya's second-largest hydrocarbon complex, is in charge of the country's main oil fields.

Another rebel spokesman, Mohammed al-Zawawi, said earlier that two rebels died in the day's fighting in Brega, while 16 others were wounded.

Libya's civil war has been deadlocked for months despite Nato's airstrikes to protect civilians. The revolt began in mid-February, with the rebels quickly wresting control of much of the eastern half of the country, as well as pockets in the west.


From Belfast Telegraph