August 14, 2011 / 3:52 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Libyan rebels say they attack town south of Tripoli

(Adds background, details)

AL-QAWALISH, Libya, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Libyan rebel fighters are fighting forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi for control of Garyan, a town 80 km (50 miles) south of the capital, a rebel fighter told Reuters on Sunday.

“We entered it (Garyan) today,” the fighter told Reuters as he drove towards the town. “We control 70 percent of Garyan. There is still fighting taking place at the moment.”

A spokesman for Gaddafi’s government said earlier on Sunday Garyan was still under Tripoli’s control. It was not immediately possible to verify the rebels’ account.

A Reuters reporter in the village of Al-Qawalish, about 25 km west of Garyan, said he could hear heavy gunfire coming from the direction of the town. At least six plumes of black smoke were visible.

A fighter based in Al-Qawalish, called Abubakr Abdullah, told Reuters: “We have heard that Gaddafi’s troops have been leaving Garyan.”

Garyan lies on the main highway leading north into the Libyan capital. If rebels took the town, Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli would be encircled by rebel forces.

The rebels trying to end Gaddafi’s 41-year rule already control areas east of Tripoli, and in the past 24 hours they have entered the town of Zawiyah, west of the capital, in the most dramatic advance in months of fighting. (Reporting by Michael Georgy; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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