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Libya's Zawiyah back under Kadhafi control: witness

TRIPOLI — Moamer Kadhafi's forces have won control of the Libyan town of Zawiyah near Tripoli after intense fighting in which rebel lines were blasted by tanks and artillery, a resident said by phone Thursday.

"The town is now under the army's control," said the resident, who asked to remain anonymous.

"The fighting ended last night. Today the situation is calm. I'm taking the opportunity to leave the town with my family. I'm heading for Jedayem," he added, referring to a small village three kilometres (about two miles) west of Zawiyah.

Meanwhile a Sudanese national who escaped the Libyan inferno told reporters at the Tunisian border post of Ras Jdir how he made through Zawiyah on Wednesday night.

"There were many Libyan troops, many armoured vehicles and police cars," said Osman el-Sir Dawina el-Radi, a 42-year old sheet metal worker who had been living in Zawiyah since 1993.

"The soldiers were firing into the air as a sign of victory," he said.

"I had been cowering indoors for 15 days until yesterday when the (Sudanese) consulate told me to leave," who arrived at the Ras Jdir border post with a group of Sudanese compatriots late Wednesday..

Radi recounted how he left for the capital Tripoli in the morning and for them boarded a bus with other Sudanese citizens, driving through the city centre of Zawiyah on their way to freedom.

Zawiyah, a prosperous dormitory town 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Tripoli, had been under assault for several days by Kadhafi's forces using artillery and tanks.

Rebels had overrun the town, where many military officers have their homes, soon after a popular uprising against Kadhafi erupted on February 15.

Late on Wednesday, Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said Zawiyah had been retaken but added, "There are still pockets of violence. There have been celebrations for hours."

State television reported that "massive demonstrations" took place in the centre of Zawiyah in favour of Kadhafi Wednesday evening.

"The crowds in Zawiyah have come out on to the main square in solidarity with our brother, the leader of the revolution," said the television, which has previously reported government successes that were belied on the ground.

It showed pictures of crowds shouting and waving green flags, which it said came from Zawiyah.