Rebels deny Gaddafi troops on Benghazi outskirts

Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:22pm GMT

BENGHAZI, Libya, March 17 (Reuters) - A rebel spokesman said on Thursday forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi were still far from the outskirts of Benghazi and said rebels surrounded the Libyan leader's troops when they approached an oil town to the south.

Residents of rebel-held Benghazi reported air strikes on the outskirts of the city, including at the airport of Benina, earlier on Thursday.

Libyan state television had said government forces were on the edge of Benghazi and had seized control of the oil town of Zueitina to the south.

"They are no where near Benghazi," said Essam Gheriani, spokesman for the rebel February 17th coalition. He also said Gaddafi's forces had approached Zueitina but added: "They have been surrounded by the revolutionary forces and are being dealt with." (Reporting by a Reuters reporter in Benghazi and Tom Pfeiffer on the Egypt-Libya border; Writing by Edmund Blair in Cairo)

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