Aug 15 * Rebels say they seize Garyan,
* Gaddafi urges people to 'liberate Libya'
* UN envoy in Tunisia where rebels, govt said to hold talks
* Gaddafi security official flies to Cairo
(Adds government spokesman on Garyan in paragraph 7)
By Michael Georgy
ZAWIYAH, Libya, Aug 15 Libyan rebels said on
Monday they had seized a second strategic town near Tripoli
within 24 hours, completing the encirclement of the capital in
the boldest advances of their six-month-old uprising against
In a barely audible telephone call to state television
overnight, a defiant and apparently isolated Gaddafi called on
his followers to fight rebels he referred to as "rats".
Gaddafi's forces fired mortars and rockets at the coastal
town of Zawiyah a day after rebels captured its centre in a
thrust that severed the vital coastal highway from Tripoli to
the Tunisian border, a potential turning point in the war.
Rebels said they captured the town of Garyan south of
Tripoli on Monday. That could not be immediately verified, but
if true it would cut off the other main route to the capital.
"Garyan is fully in the hands of the revolutionaries," a
rebel spokesman, Abdulrahman, said by telephone.
"Gaddafi has been isolated. He has been cut off from the
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim acknowledged in remarks
broadcast on state television that rebel fighters were in
Garyan. "There are still armed gangs inside the city. We are
able to drive them out," he said.
A U.N. envoy arrived in neighbouring Tunisia, where sources
say rebels and representatives of the government have been holed
up on the island resort of Djerba for negotiations. The envoy,
Abdel Elah al-Khatib, told Reuters he would meet "Libyan
personalities residing in Tunisia" to discuss the conflict.
Talks could signal the endgame of a civil war that has drawn
in the NATO alliance and emerged as one of the bloodiest
confrontations in the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
Rebels may still lack the manpower for an all-out assault on
Tripoli, but are hoping their encirclement of the capital will
bring down Gaddafi's government or inspire an uprising. In the
past, however, they have frequently failed to hold gains, and a
fightback by Gaddafi troops could yet break the siege.
Gaddafi's government denies talks with rebels are taking
place. His spokesman dismissed reports of negotiations about the
Libyan leader's future as part of a "media war" against him.
"The leader is here in Libya, fighting for the freedom of
our nation. He will not leave Libya," spokesman Ibrahim said.
A senior Gaddafi security official, Nasser al-Mabrouk
Abdullah, arrived in Cairo with nine relatives, telling Egyptian
officials he was on holiday. Rebels hoped that would signal more
defections from a crumbling government.
After months of only incremental gains in their struggle
against Gaddafi, rebel advances in the last two days have
transformed the battle, beginning with the capture of the town
of Zawiyah which cut Tripoli's main lifeline road west.
Reuters reporters in the town say Gaddafi's forces still
hold an oil refinery and have sniper positions on rooftops, but
the highway linking Tripoli to the Tunisian border is shut.
Nevertheless, a U.S. military official, speaking on
condition of anonymity, told Reuters the advance in Zawiyah
could not yet be seen as a "game changer", stressing that the
rebels did not have complete control of the town.
At a hospital, medics said six rebels had died and 26 were
wounded. They also said firing by Gaddafi forces killed three
civilians. One man was shot in the head and a 15-year-old girl
died of shrapnel wounds.
A woman lay in the hospital unconscious with shrapnel wounds
to her neck. Her brother, who gave his name as Waleed, stood
over her holding a drip, his T-shirt drenched in blood. He said
Gaddafi's forces were "shooting at us indiscriminately".
Zawiyah's residents have risen up twice in the past, only
for their revolts to be crushed by Gaddafi loyalists. But this
is the first time rebel fighters advancing from the mountains in
the south have reached the town, incorporating it into a front
that now cuts off the vital coast road.
Gaddafi's green flag still flew at the coastal highway's
border crossing with Tunisia on Monday, but the steady traffic
that once supplied Gaddafi-held areas had slowed to a trickle.
Passengers said the road was only open for about 70 km (44
miles), a third of the way to Tripoli.
The rebels' reported capture of Garyan would close the
capital's other main supply line, a highway south over the
mountains and into the desert. That route links Tripoli with
Algeria and also can be used to reach the east.
Reuters reporters saw NATO war planes bombing Garyan on
Sunday. Abdulrahman, the rebel spokesman, said fighters there
had crushed a brigade that formed Gaddafi's main fighting force
in the Western mountains, and had seized its weapons.
In the east of the country, rebel advances have been slower.
Rebels were able to take journalists on Monday to the deserted
oil port of Brega, the frontline for months. Since last week,
rebels have held residential parts of the city, while Gaddafi's
troops still hold the refinery, oil terminal and port.
Unexploded shells lay on streets, amid burnt-out vehicles
and the occasional dead sheep. Rebels said they feared Gaddafi's
troops would destroy the oil terminal rather than give it up.
The rebel advances are a relief for NATO allies, especially
France and Britain, which have been in the vanguard of a bombing
campaign since March that they say will not end until Gaddafi
leaves power. NATO ambassadors are due to meet on Aug. 31 to
discuss a 90-day extension of their operation in Libya.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, said
Britain was aware of reports of rebel progress. "We think the
NATO operation is proving successful in eroding Gaddafi's
ability to wage war against his own people," the spokesman said.
Libyans fleeing south in their cars reported gunfire in a
place called Harsha, between Tripoli and Zawiyah.
"I heard fighting there today on our way here," said one man
who declined to give his name. He also said rebels clashed with
Gaddafi's security forces inside Tripoli on Sunday night.
"There is no gasoline, no electricity, food prices are up
300 percent. We just cannot live like this anymore," he said.
Gaddafi's overnight speech was delivered over a poor-quality
telephone and broadcast by state TV in audio only, giving the
impression the leader was in a bunker or other remote hideout.
"Move forward, challenge, pick up your weapons, go to the
fight for liberating Libya inch by inch from the traitors and
from NATO," the 68-year-old leader said. "The blood of martyrs
is fuel for the battle.... The end of colonialism is near. The
end of the rats (rebels) is near, as they flee."
(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan in Tripoli, Robert Birsel
in Brega, Libya, Ulf Laessing in Ras Jdir, Tunisia, Tarek Amara
in Tunis, Hamid Ould Ahmed and Christian Lowe in Algiers, Sami
Aboudi and Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Jordan
and Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by