By Robert Birsel
BENGHAZI, Aug 23 - Rebels in eastern Libya took control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf Tuesday as soldiers loyal to Muammar Gaddafi retreated toward the leader's home town of Sirte, a rebel spokesman said.
Rebels appeared to be in the final phases of a six-month uprising aimed at ending Gaddafi's 42-year rule, having stormed his compound in Tripoli earlier Tuesday, though Gaddafi's whereabouts remained a mystery.
"We have taken Ras Lanuf. They just ran until the Red Valley," rebel spokesman Mohammad Zawawi said, adding the Red Valley was in the direction of Sirte.
Zawawi said there was no damage to the oil facilities in Ras Lanuf and the only damage at Brega, taken by the rebels on Monday, was an oil storage tank that was on fire.
Ras Lanuf is home to one of the OPEC-member nation's six main oil export terminals and handled about 195,000 barrels per day before the war. Marsa El Brega exported about 51,000 bpd before the fighting began in February.
Zawawi said NATO aircraft were attacking the Gaddafi soldiers in the Red Valley about 50 km (30 miles) west of Ras Lanuf. It was not clear if the soldiers were headed for Sirte, believed still to be a stronghold of the long-time leader.
Libyan government forces fired three Scud-type missiles on Monday from the area of Sirte toward the rebel-held coastal city of Misrata in central Libya, NATO said Monday.
The western alliance said initial reports showed the rockets landed most likely at sea or on the shore, and NATO was not aware of any casualties or damage.
(Reporting by Robert Birsel; writing by Richard Valdmanis, editing by Tim Pearce)