TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 14 (UPI) — The Libyan government Sunday denied rebels had won control of a major city and were just miles from Tripoli.
Government spokesman Musa Ibrahim told reporters that rebels’ statements saying they have taken the city of al-Zawiya, 33 miles west of the capital, were exaggerated.
“This is what you call a skirmish, what you call a suicide mission,” Ibrahim said.
He said there are about 50 anti-government rebels in the city and another 100 on the outskirts, but forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi were “absolutely under our control,” CNN reported.
Rebel commander Adel al-Zintani told the broadcaster fighters cut off a desert road that is critical as a supply line for government forces 60 miles south of Tripoli and captured the town of Garyan.
Zintani said the Libyan military didn’t put up much of a fight.
“We captured many anti-aircraft artillery vehicles, two full fuel tankers and 106 anti-tank piercing artillery and shells,” he said.
Meanwhile, NATO reported it conducted 47 airstrikes Saturday against Libyan military sites.
The military alliance was given orders by the U.N. Security Council in late March to prevent the army from attacking civilians demanding an end to Gadhafi’s 42 years of power.