Libyan rebels raised their flag over a strategic town near Tripoli on Sunday after their most dramatic advance in months cut off Muammar Gaddafi’s capital from its main link to the outside world.
The swift rebel advance on the town of Zawiyah, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, will deal a psychological blow to Gaddafi’s supporters and severs the coastal highway to Tunisia that keeps the capital supplied with food and fuel.
There was no sign Tripoli was under immediate threat from a rebel attack: heavily armed pro-Gaddafi forces still lie between Zawiyah and the capital. Previous rebel advances have often been reversed, despite help from NATO warplanes.
But rebel forces are in their strongest position since the uprising against 41 years of Gaddafi’s rule began in February. They now control the coast both east and west of Tripoli, while to the north is the Mediterranean and a NATO naval blockade and there is fighting to the south.