Libyan rebels make fresh gains, NATO drops leaflets

Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:48pm GMT

By Youssef Boudlal and Matt Robinson

KIKLA/MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan rebels made fresh gains on the western front on Tuesday, pushing back forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi in a string of clashes that brought them closer to the capital Tripoli.

Late on Tuesday, NATO resumed bombing the Libyan capital with strikes hitting the east of the city.

A Reuters correspondent in the capital heard at least three loud explosions and saw smoke in the sky and a fire. He could hear planes flying above.

Libyan state TV said the bombings had struck military and civilian targets in Firnag, one of the biggest neighbourhoods in the capital, and Ain Zara. It said there were casualties.

Insurgents tried earlier in the day to advance further in the east, aiming for the oil town of Brega in a bid to extend their control over the region, epicentre of the four-month rebellion against Gaddafi's four-decade rule.

They seized the town of Kikla, 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Tripoli, after government troops fell back, and pushed several kilometres west of their Misrata stronghold to the outskirts of government-held Zlitan, Reuters photographers said.

Pro-Gaddafi forces retreated about nine km from Kikla and rebels were setting up defensive positions there, they said.

In Brussels, NATO spokesman Wing Commander Mike Bracken said rebel forces were making steady advances in the west and the Berber highlands, and appeared to "control the ground from Wazin to Jadu and Zintan as well as the town of Yaffran.   Continued...

<p>Workers inspect a damaged power generator of the oil refinery which was hit by a grad rocket of the forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi at western Libyan city of Misrata June 13, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra</p>
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