WADI EL-HAI, Li — A Libyan rebel spokesman says rebel forces have siezed from Moammar Gadhafi's control a major mountain town that is a strategic gateway on the road to the capital, Tripoli.
The spokesman, Gomma Ibrahim, says the town of Gharyan fell on Saturday after brief clashes before Gadhafi's troops withdrew. He says residents welcomed rebel fighters as they entered.
Gharyan is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Tripoli in Libya's western Nafusa Mountains. The mountain range is now largely under rebel control, and the town is key because it lies on the road north directly to the capital.
Rebels have launched a major new offensive from the Nafusa, trying to move into the coastal plain west of Tripoli.
Scores of Libyan families are taking advantage of a rebel advance toward coastal towns to flee Tripoli into the opposition-held western mountains.
The families are fleeing through desert back roads that appeared to be less guarded amid the fighting between rebels and Moammar Gadhafi's forces. The rebels say they registered 55 families that fled Tripoli in the past three days for the Nafusa mountains.
Sassi Ahmed says he left the capital with his wife and six children early Saturday. The 47-year-old teacher says they left because the situation in Tripoli is "frightening," with no gas or electricity.
Rebel commander Fathi el-Ayeb says his fighters are 10 miles (15 kilometers) from Gadhafi-held Zawiya, a key target in their push to Tripoli.
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