Posted: 26 Mar 2011 09:40 AM PDT
26 Mac 2011 (AlJazeera) Libyan rebels are celebrating the recapture of the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya from government control, our correspondent there reports. "There is no doubt about it, you can probably hear some of the celebrations behind me, Ajdabiya is in opposition hands," Al Jazeera's James Bays said from the city on Saturday as celebratory gunfire rang out.
"Gaddafi forces have been controlling the ring road that goes around Ajdabiya ... that has been the situation for six days, but they have now been cleared from that position." "The opposition forces tell me there may be some pro-Gaddafi forces hiding, snipers possibly on buildings, they are telling us to take care," he said, but he added that Ajdabiya was "firmly back under the control of opposition fighters".
But Libyan government officials said that the army had withdrawn to save residents from more bloodshed. Rebel forces had initially captured Ajdabiya during an advance along Libya's east coast that was halted and reversed in a counter-offensive by government forces backed by superior air power earlier this month. But coalition airstrikes have tipped the balance back towards the rebels, Bays said.
Rebel fighters were now reportedly on their way to the key oil port town of Brega, where Gaddafi forces have retreated, witnesses said. "The road is open beyond Ajdabiya, and [the rebels] are heading, streaming along that road ... they are on the road and they are moving forward," Bays reported.
On Friday, western warplanes bombed Gaddafi's tanks and artillery outside the town to break the battlefield stalemate and help rebels retake the town. Many fighters belonging to forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi were also taken hostage by rebels.
Success: People celebrate at the western gate after forces loyal to Gaddafi fled following coalition air strikes around the eastern town of Ajdabiyah
A Libyan rebel holds an old Libyan flag on a wrecked tank near recaptured Ajdabiya
Rebels celebrate after forces loyal to Gaddafi fled following coalition air strikes around the eastern town of Ajdabiyah
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