Tripoli says key town recaptured

Smoke billows from Tajura, a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli, as powerful explosions struck the eastern district which is the site of a number of military installations. (AFP)

Government troops have recaptured the strategic town of Bir Ghanam, southwest of Tripoli, from rebel forces, Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told reporters on Sunday.

"Life is back to normal in Bir Ghanam, and today it is under the full control of the regime," Mahmudi said, a day after rebels said they captured the town which lies just 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the capital.

Libyan rebels from the Berber-dominated Nafusa mountain range south of Tripoli claimed the capture of Bir Ghanam on Saturday as they pushed further east toward the capital.

An AFP correspondent on the scene said rebels from the Berber-dominated Nafusa mountains began a two-pronged assault from Bir Ayad earlier that day. By late afternoon, rebel commanders said Bir Ghanam was seized.

Nato said its warplanes attacked 45 targets across Libya on Saturday, including an ammunition storage facility and a multiple rocket launcher system in the Bir Ghanam area.

The rebels have been using the Nafusa mountain range as a springboard to advance on Tripoli but have encountered strong resistance from fighters loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

On Saturday, hundreds of rebel fighters also forked off towards the sea, advancing within 20 kilometres of Surman -- which lies on the coastal road to the west of Tripoli -- before meeting any resistance, an AFP correspondent said.

Their path northward was veiled in black smoke and strewn with burned-out Libyan army vehicles, some with the bodies of soldiers inside, he said.

But forces loyal to the veteran Libyan strongman fought back, laying down fire in a bid to halt the rebels' advance.

Many of the rebels were from the "Tripoli Battalion," a group of volunteers from the capital and other coastal towns eager to "liberate" their homes in the five-month-old revolt.

The battalion is said to have received military training in the Nafusa mountain range.

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