Libyan rebels said on Saturday they had seized control of the oil port of Brega, but there was no independent confirmation.
Brega, site of an oil export terminal and refinery, sprawls over a large area and overall control can be hard to determine.
“Brega is 100 percent in the hands of the liberating forces,” Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi, said. He said forces opposed to leader Muammar Gaddafi had been driven out late on Saturday afternoon in what would have been a signficant success for the rebels.
There were no journalists in the town and no immediate independent confirmation of the rebel . Reuters
Rebels battling Moamar Gaddafi’s regime say they have retaken the eastern town of Brega just hours after recapturing the strategic city of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya.
Earlier rebels moved into Ajdabiya, leaving a trail of destroyed tanks and military vehicles along the road after coalition air strikes ousted Mr Gaddafi’s forces there.
It was their first significant victory since the launch of the Western-led strikes a week ago.
“We are in the centre of Brega,” 80 kilometres west of Ajdabiya, rebel fighter Abdelsalam al-Maadani said by telephone.
“Gaddafi’s forces are on the retreat and should now be at Al-Bisher [30 kilometres] west of Brega,” he said, adding that the rebels “are also advancing towards this area.”
A journalist travelling with the rebels saw rebel fighters in control of the centre of the oil town and said that government forces had completely withdrawn.
On March 13 the rebels abandoned Brega under heavy shelling from advancing government forces, and Libyan state television later that day declared the oil town “purged of the armed gangs.”
The morale-boosting victory for opposition forces comes after eight days trying to break the town’s siege.
The city lies on the front line between the two sides, and would have given the Libyan army a clear road to the opposition capital, Benghazi.
The signs of fierce fighting are all through the city, which bears the marks of shelling and missile fire.
The opposition says hundreds of people died in their homes, but there also signs of what a huge role the allied air forces have played in this battle, with the charred remains of Libyan army tanks scattered along the streets.
As news spread, thousands of people streamed into Ajdabiya, mostly to celebrate, but also bringing food and water.
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