Fighting in Zawiyah shuts Libya road to Tunisia

Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:52pm GMT

By Nick Carey and Peter Graff

ZAWIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi fought gun battles with rebels in the town of Zawiyah on Saturday, witnesses said, shutting the coastal highway that links the capital Tripoli with Tunisia.

Two Reuters reporters travelling via the town, which lies just 50 km (30 miles) outside of Tripoli, on two separate trips six hours apart, were diverted via backstreets with a police escort while the fighting raged on.

They said the highway was deserted except for lots of soldiers, police and armed men in civilian clothes. One heard bursts of gunfire coming from the direction of the city.

"The situation is very bad in Zawiyah. There's been fierce fighting since the morning," said the resident, who gave only his first name, Mohammed, fearing reprisals.

Four months since Gaddafi's forces crushed a popular uprising against his four-decade rule that then morphed into an armed rebellion, Libya's civil war is in stalemate.

Nearly three months of bombings by NATO war planes against Libyan military targets have failed to unseat Gaddafi or enable the rebels to launch an offensive on his territory in Tripoli.

Several explosions were heard in Tripoli throughout the afternoon, as late as 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), suggesting NATO was ramping up attacks after a quiet morning.

Libya TV reported that "the imperialist aggressors" had bombed several sites in and around the Libyan capital, in the town of Yafran, then showed footage of what it said were children wounded in past NATO bombings, to violin music.   Continued...

<p>Smoke rises after an explosion, the cause of which was unclear, on Misrata's western front line June 11, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra</p>
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