March 4, 2011
Libyan rebels have been locked in fierce battles with pro-Gaddafi forces on two fronts. Rebel-held Zawiya, just 50km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, was the subject of a fierce government assault. Both sides later claimed to be in control. Heavy casualties were reported there and in other key cities, including the eastern port of Ras Lanuf. Dozens of people were also killed and hurt in apparently accidental blasts at an arms dump in rebel-held Benghazi. Hospital sources in the city, Libya’s second-largest, said they believed the two explosions were not triggered by an air strike. Reports said at least 17 people had been killed in the blasts. Earlier in the day, clashes briefly erupted after Friday prayers in the capital, Tripoli, but protesters dispersed after security forces fired tear gas and baton rounds. Reports from Zawiya said the most senior rebel commander in the city was among those killed there. One resident told BBC Arabic TV that many people had died when a peaceful demonstration came under fire.