Libya’s opposition fighters are continuing their push to capture a strategic oil terminal in Brega, which is still in control of forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
The rebels took over the residential zone of New Brega, located about 15km from the central oil terminal and port area, on Thursday.
Mohammed Zawawi, the opposition spokesman, told the Reuters news agency on Friday it was still not safe to go into the city.
“Now we are trying to clear that area. There are some Gaddafi troops still there,” Zawawi said.
Troops loyal to Gaddafi are holding on to the oil facilities and firing rockets at rebel positions. At least eight rebel fighters have been killed and another 25 wounded in the latest fighting.
“There’s close fighting in the oil terminal area this morning, but maybe we can finish it off today,” Mohammad Muftah, a rebel soldier, said.
In Brussels, a NATO operations report said that, among other targets in the country, air strikes had hit an armed vehicle, a multiple rocket launcher and an artillery piece in the vicinity of Brega on Thursday.
The two sides have been battling for months for control of the port, 750km east of Tripoli.
Rebels hope that by taking complete control of the city, its oil terminal and sea port will allow them to resume oil exports.
Capture of Tawurgha
On the western front, opposition commanders said they had control of the town of Tawurgha as they pushed to cut supply routes to forces loyal to Gaddafi.
In a symbolic show of victory, fighters tore down green flags that had been hoisted atop buildings by Gaddafi supporters who had occupied the area.
“Gaddafi is finished!” shouted a jubilant 31-year-old fighter named Mohammed. “There is no way back. We have taken Tawurgha!”
The rebels encountered heavy fighting and sizable pockets of resistance among a maze of buildings and date palms.
Rebel commanders said there were still some snipers inside the town and bombardments were now coming from a village south of the town.
Further south along the main road, truck after truck of rebel fighters pressed forward to new positions, as heavy fighting continued.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Tawurgha, said it was a heavily co-ordinated operation with NATO, with six tanks involved.
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“Fighting is going on in the old quarter of the town where Gaddafi forces are still putting up some resistance,” he said.
“Opposition fighters have been searching houses one after the other with green flags.
“Many, many Gaddafi forces have been arrested in areas surrounding the town to try to secure the area to stop Grad missiles from being fired on Misrata from here.
“Their other objective is to try to cut the supply line to Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.”
The citizens of Misrata have blamed forces in Tawurgha for many of the attacks on their hometown.
Meanwhile, a captured Gaddafi intelligence officer has said that the Libyan leader has reinforced Zawiyah, which also has a coastal oil refinery, with about 1,000 conscripts.
Brigadier-General Al-Hadi al-Ujaili predicted the rebels would face a hard fight to capture the town.
He said Gaddafi still enjoys strong support in Tripoli and among Libya’s main tribes, which he said was crucial.
The embattled Libyan leader has clung to power despite five months of NATO air strikes, suffocating economic sanctions and an expanding war with opposition forces.