UPDATE 1-Libyan rebels say secure another western coastal city

Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:01pm EDT

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SABRATHA, Libya Aug 18 (Reuters) - Libyan rebel forces celebrated the capture of Sabratha on the coast road between the Tunisian border and the capital Tripoli on Thursday, after a four-day battle with pro-Gaddafi government troops.

Securing the city would tighten the insurgents' control over supply lines to the capital from Tunisia, which they all but severed with the capture of Zawiyah closer to Tripoli earlier this week.

A Reuters team in Sabratha, on the coast about 80 km (50 miles) west of Tripoli, said a group of 200 rebels were in the centre of the town firing rifles and anti-aircraft guns into the air in celebration.

Fighters and locals told Reuters the rebels now control 90 percent of the ancient Roman town of Sabratha, and had just pushed forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out of its Telel district.

They said the battle for the town had been going on for three or four days.

A local man said the breakthrough came when NATO bombed a military training facility in the centre of Sabratha. After that strike, the rebels stormed the facility and seized weapons.

Sabratha is an ancient Roman town with an amphitheatre and reconstructed theatre where Benito Mussolini watched performances during Italian colonial rule. It is on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

At the entrance to the Roman site, there was no sign of fighting or evidence of any damage, though it was not possible to check the whole site, which stretches over a vast area. (Reporting by Yvonne Bell; Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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