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Libyan rebels try isolating Tripoli

Rebel fighters burn a Gadhafi flag in Brega, Libya, on Monday. Most of the town has been liberated from Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, with fights going on only at the oil terminal, according to rebel military spokesman Ahmed Bani.

Associated Press

Rebel fighters burn a Gadhafi flag in Brega, Libya, on Monday. Most of the town has been liberated from Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, with fights going on only at the oil terminal, according to rebel military spokesman Ahmed Bani.

ZAWIYA, Libya — Libya's rebels threatened to isolate Tripoli by blocking key supply routes and cutting oil pipelines on Monday after a dramatic weekend advance put them in the strongest position since the 6-month-old civil war began to attack Moammar Gadhafi's stronghold.

In Washington, the Obama administration said the United States was encouraged by the rebel advances and hoped they had broken a monthslong stalemate with Gadhafi's forces.

"We are closing the roads for Gadhafi so there is no way for him to bring anything to Tripoli," said Jumma Dardira, a rebel field commander.

The rebels' push Saturday into the strategic city of Zawiya, home to oil-rich Libya's only functioning refineries, brought them within 30 miles of Tripoli, the closest they have ever gotten.

Also Monday, U.S. defense officials said Libyan government forces tapped into their stores of Scud missiles this weekend, firing one for the first time in this year's conflict with rebels, but hurting no one.

The missile launch was detected by U.S. forces shortly after midnight Sunday and the Scud landed in the desert about 50 miles outside Brega, said one official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

In neighboring Egypt, the head of Libyan public security and a former interior minister flew in with nine family members on a private plane in an apparent defection. Nassr al-Mabroul Abdullah entered on a tourist visa. If confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of high profile defections from Gadhafi's regime.

Elsewhere

Syria: Security forces cracking down on opposition strongholds in Latakia herded thousands of people into a stadium after taking away their identification cards and cell phones, activists said Monday.

TUNISIA: Police have fired tear gas to disperse protesters throwing stones and smashing storefronts in an unexpected eruption of violence in the country's capital.

Egypt: Ayman al-Zawahri, Al-Qaida's new leader, called on his followers to continue to fight the United States despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, calling America a "criminal country" that has corrupted the world.

Libyan rebels try isolating Tripoli 08/16/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 12:10am]

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