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Africa
Libyan rebels seize Gaddafi weapons depot
Capture of munitions dump seen as a big boost for the fighters, whose road to Tripoli remains rocky, however.
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2011 20:35

Rebel fighters have managed to capture a significant munitions depot from Libyan government forces in the west of the country, near the town of Zintan.

Tuesday's development is seen as a major victory for the rebels as they make their way to Tripoli, the seat of Muammar Gaddafi's power.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull, reporting from Jadu, a nearby town, said that finding the stash will be an "enormous morale-booster" for the fighters, who he said have been working with limited weaponry and had been anxiously eyeing the weapons dump.

The rebels had only managed to get close to the arms cache on Tuesday morning, when "just about every man with wheels" drove across the desert to load up his vehicle with munitions, he said.

"Tons and tons of munitions and equipment, including two Russian T-55 tanks, I must say, coming back across the road from the weapons depot back up into Zintan, and an armoured vehicle," he said.

Our correspondent further said finding the munitions will help maintain the momentum that the rebels have been building up slowly over recent weeks.

In May, NATO warships bombed "military and civilian targets" in the rebel-held city of Misurata, east of Tripoli, and also in Zintan.

In for the long haul

Even though Tuesday's discovery was a victory for the fighters, Hull said that it was impossible to guess how much longer this conflict will continue.

The commanders and fighters in the region, said Hull, have "one firm objective in mind: To protect their towns and villages" and to keep Libyan government forces out.

Indeed, Libyan rebels seeking to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power launched machine gun fire from a position near the Dafniya frontline, 30km west of Misurata.

Fighting has been largely on Misurata's far western and eastern edges, where the rebel fighters are facing better equipped and better trained government forces.

One rebel fighter said his forces were facing arbitrary artillery fire from pro-Gaddafi forces and that he expected a long drawn out battle.

"Regarding the [pro-Gaddafi] forces, they are using heavy artillery. Of course they are firing arbitrarily. Considering the circumstances in Dafniya we will be in this situation for a long time," he said.

The rebels are trying to inch towards Tripoli from Misurata and from the western Nafusa mountain region.

The rebels have made slow progress since NATO countries joined their fight to overthrow Gaddafi in March.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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