RAS LANUF, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan troops were waving posters of Muammar Gaddafi and painting over rebel graffiti in the oil town of Ras Lanuf Saturday when foreign journalists arrived on an official visit.
Rebels who had been holding the town retreated to the east overnight under heavy bombardment from government forces. A huge cloud of black smoke rose in the distance east of Ras Lanuf as the media party from Tripoli entered the western outskirts.
In the first area the correspondents entered, apparently a housing complex for oil workers, there were dozens of soldiers on the streets, many chanting pro-Gaddafi slogans, but almost no civilians in sight.
Outside the town's hospital, blankets and empty milk and water containers were strewn about in the street.
Ras Lanuf, about 590 km (370 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, is the site of the largest of Libya's five refineries. Opposition forces further westward said they would stage a counter-attack to try to retake the town.
(Reporting by Michael Georgy in Ras Lanuf, writing by Tom Heneghan; editing by Tim Pearce)