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Friday, March 4, 2011

Gaddafi forces try to retake rebel town near capital, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Residents say gunfight raging since morning
* Rebels pushed back to central square
* "We will fight to the end" - rebel spokesman

By Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI, March 4 (Reuters) - Security forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi launched an offensive on Friday to retake a town near the capital that has for days been defying his rule, residents said by telephone.

An improvised force of rebels has been pushed back to the central square in Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, where about 2,000 of them are getting ready to make a last stand, a rebel spokesman said.

"We are on the square, all of our forces are here," said Youssef Shagan. "The square is safe but they (government forces) are attacking from east and west. We will fight until the end."

"They have now started trying to go into the city to try to retake it," he said.
He said three rebel soldiers had been killed and 40 people had been wounded. His account could not be independently verified because reporters' movements in Libya are restricted.

The rebellion in Zawiyah -- the closest rebel-held territory to the capital and also the site of an oil refinery -- has been an embarassment to the Libyan authorities who are trying to show they control at least the west of the country.

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