Libya rebels claim capture of strategic towns

Abdessalam Jalloud, a former prime minister who fell out of favour with Muammar Gaddafi in the mid-1990s, "has gone to Benghazi yesterday night (Friday)," rebel spokesman Juma Ibrahim told reporters today.

"I don't know who he met there. He left by car," he added.
Overnight, rebel military commander Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told AFP the ex-premier had managed to flee Tripoli and "has joined the rebels." Another source said his family accompanied him and they stopped first in Zintan.

His defection was the latest blow to Gaddafi's regime and comes amid rumours that the Libyan strongman himself was preparing to flee as rebels appear to be closing in on the capital.

Yesterday they claimed "Zawiyah is free" as they took up positions in its hospital hours after pounding the centre of the oil-refinery town, the last major barrier as they try to advance on Tripoli from the west.

The key refinery is the only source of fuel to the capital, and could leave it without critical supplies.

Insurgents also said they seized Zliten from Gaddafi's forces, hours after saying they were in the town's centre, 150 kilometres (93 miles) east of Tripoli.

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