Africa

Libya conflict: Rebels capture key Zawiya oil refinery

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Media captionThe BBC's Matthew Price in Tripoli says capturing the Zawiya refinery is a major coup for the rebels

An oil refinery outside the Libyan town of Zawiya, just 50km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has been taken by opposition forces, a BBC correspondent confirms.

A BBC crew was taken around the refinery by the rebels who have captured the complex.

There was no sign of pro-Gaddafi troops, and dozens of rebel groups could be seen milling around.

This contradicts a statement by the Libyan PM who said earlier that government forces were in control.

There were no snipers, and the nearest fighting was at least 3-4km (two miles) away, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes at the refinery.

Pro-Gaddafi forces have lost territory to the rebels in recent days.

Rebel fighter Abdulkarim Kashaba said on Wednesday that they had taken "control [of] the gates of the refinery" and were planning an assault.

Heavy gunfire could be heard after rebels in cars loaded with large-calibre ammunition sped towards the refinery.

Although much of the fuel used by the Libyan army is smuggled across the border from Tunisia and Algeria, the refinery provides supplies for the capital, Tripoli, says the BBC's Matthew Price in Tripoli.

Rebels also appear to be consolidating their gains in Zawiya itself, and the Libyan army is clearly on the back foot, he adds.

Our correspondent notes that although the government is insisting it will fight back, there is a distinct nervousness among some government employees that has not been seen before.

Control of Zawiya is seen as important because it straddles a major road linking Tripoli to Tunisia.

If opposition forces could maintain control of the town, they would have Tripoli surrounded by land, with Nato - which has been enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone to protect civilians since March - blocking sea access.

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