Blasts rock Libyan capital near Gadhafi compound

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2011 7:58 PM
Blasts rock Libyan capital near Gadhafi compound

At least seven loud blasts were heard in Tripoli early Friday morning as bombs fell in the vicinity of Moammar Gadhafi's main compound of Bab al-Aziziya.

An Associated Press correspondent staying in a hotel in the capital said he heard the explosions and saw flames in the air as bombs struck the ground. NATO jets were heard circling the sky above.

Residents in Tripoli also told The Associated Press that at least three blasts were heard on the road leading to the airport in the capital.

NATO has been bombarding military targets in Libya since a no-fly zone was instituted in March. That includes areas near and in Gadhafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound, which is the Libyan leader's main headquarters and acts as a military barracks.

Just 30 miles (48 kilometers) to the west of the capital, opposition fighters in Libya's western mountains claimed control Thursday of the country's last functioning oil refinery, a blow to Moammar Gadhafi's regime in a week of stunning rebel advances that could turn the tide of the 6-month-old civil war.

The refinery is located in the strategic city of Zawiya, where rebels have made great strides in battles with government forces since their initial assault on Saturday.

A rebel victory in Zawiya could leave Gadhafi nearly cornered in his increasingly isolated stronghold of Tripoli, the capital, just 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the east along the Mediterranean coast.

Rebel fighters are now closing in on the capital from the west and the south, while NATO controls the seas to the north. The opposition is in control of most of the eastern half of the country and has declared Benghazi, 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) east of Tripoli, as its de facto capital.

Families fleeing their homes to avoid a possible rebel assault on Tripoli described growing tensions and deteriorating living conditions in the capital: Security forces have blanketed the city with checkpoints, gun battles are heard after nightfall and power outages last days.

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Laub reported from Zintan, Libya.