Libyan rebels fought fiercely with loyalist forces on Friday, as they continued their battle to control Zawiyah.
The opposition counts the amount of dead at 32, with another 150 injured. After five days of heavy fighting, the opposition have the upper hand. Reports say Colonel Gaddafi’s troops are fleeing the city located on the coastal highway.
With Zawiyah apparently in rebel hands for now, this brings more upheaval for the beleaguered Libyan leader. The capital, Tripoli, is 50 kilometres away. There are also plans being made to evacuate thousands of foreign workers as the rebels approach.
The opposition are tentatively in control of Zawiyah’s oil refinery, which Gaddafi’s forces had been using for fuel supplies. Controlling Zawiyah also cuts off the troops’ main supply route between Tunisia and Tripoli.
The capital is now under extreme pressure as this week’s fighting in places like Sabratah has seen rebels advance ever closer, almost encircling Tripoli.
In another blow for Gaddafi’s side, former prime minister Abdessalam Jalloud has defected, fleeing Tripoli to go to rebel-held Zintan.
Despite the rebels’ success, Gaddafi’s Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim claims government troops are still in control of Zawiyah. He also described the opposition fighters as ‘bands of insurgents’.
The rebels say they now have control of the former Gaddafi stronghold of Zlitan to the east of Tripoli.