Libya war: New round of fighting surrounds Gadhafi compound, airport

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Even as his 42-year-old regime was crumbling around him, Gadhafi vowed not to surrender. In an audio message early Wednesday, he called on residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen to free Tripoli from the "devils and traitors" who have overrun it.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The rebels have taken control of much of Libya, sweeping through the country with the help of a relentless NATO air campaign that included including about 7,500 strike attacks against Gadhafi's forces. A NATO statement said it launched 46 strike missions Tuesday, with targets including two armored fighting vehicles, two heavy military trucks, three anti-aircraft missile systems and one radar were attacked near Tripoli.

Fighting also continued in areas outside of Tripoli. For the past four days, residents say government forces have been shelling the port town of Zwara, about 70 miles west of the capital.

All roads to the city have now been cut off, said Sefask al-Azaabi, a 29-year-old rebel.

As government forces have been defeated elsewhere, Gadhafi's forces "take their revenge by shelling our town," he said by telephone. "It is indiscriminate shelling that badly damaged our main hospital and the port."

He said rebel forces were running out of weapons, ammunition and medicine.

"We are appealing to the (rebel) military council to send us reinforcements or this town will be finished in no time, and Gadhafi's forces can easily take over," he said.

Rebel leaders, meanwhile, made first moves to set up a new government in the capital. During Libya's six-month civil war, opposition leaders had established their interim administration, the National Transitional Council, in the eastern city of Benghazi, which fell under rebel control shortly after the outbreak of widespread anti-regime protests in February.

"Members of the council are now moving one by one from Benghazi to Tripoli," said Mansour Seyf al-Nasr, the Libyan opposition's new ambassador to France.

A rebel leader, Mahmoud Jibril, was to meet later Wednesday with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of the Libyan opposition, along with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was clear Gadhafi had lost control of the majority of the Libyan capital and that this served as a "fundamental and decisive rejection" of the tyrant's regime.

Hague called on Gadhafi to "stop issuing delusional statements."

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