Libya rebels capture Gaddafi arms bunker near Zintan

The weapons cache is a boost to the rebels' supplies

Libyan rebels have captured a major complex of underground weapons bunkers from Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces in the west of the country.

Rebels said they had cleared remaining guards from the arms dump, located just south of Zintan, after Nato forces attacked the area several days ago.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor has urged allies of Col Gaddafi to help arrest him.

Rebels began their revolt in February and won Nato's support a month later.

'Vehicles destroyed'

Rockets, machine guns and other munitions were found in the network of bunkers, situated in the desert around 25km (15 miles) from the hill town of Zintan in the Nafusa mountains.

Correspondents say the seizure of the weapons was a major boost to rebels, who are hoping to push on to Tripoli from the frontline, currently on the other side of the Nafusa mountains and just 50km from the capital.

At the scene

One of the arms bunkers is still spewing flames and black smoke. Inside, underground ammunition is exploding.

The entrances to the bunkers, so many they spread out as far as the eye can see, rise up from the desert like long, low warehouses. Some of them, probably hit by Nato bombs, are completely smashed. Just big piles now of tangled metal and concrete.

The contents of the blown-up stores are spread wide across the desert. Huge artillery shells, rocket casings and vicious shards of shrapnel litter the ground. Supporters of the rebels are crowding around the bunkers that are still intact, loading arms and ammunition into pickups and lorries. Every now and then when a choice item of weaponry is found the cry of "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great") goes up.

There are also discarded uniforms of soldiers loyal to Col Gaddafi with their trademark floppy green sun-hats. In the guard room, by the gates, bedding, soap and toothbrushes are spread across the floor.

Hundreds of fighters, along with civilians, combed through the caches, according to a report by AFP news agency.

The rebels overcame heavy rocket fire from pro-Gaddafi troops, while commanders also said they destroyed three government vehicles travelling in a convoy, the report said.

Nato said planes had hit three tanks and six armoured personnel carriers in the Zintan area on Monday.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court chief Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said Libya has primary responsibility to implement the arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and the Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi.

Speaking at a news conference in The Hague, Mr Ocampo said Col Gaddafi's inner circle "can be part of the problem and be prosecuted, or they can be part of the solution, working together with the other Libyans to stop the crimes".

Mr Ocampo also said his office would continue investigating new crimes committed in Libya since the start of the uprising in February, in particular allegations of rape.

Donatella Rovera from Amnesty International, who has spent three months in the country, said the organisation did not have evidence of cases of rape so far.

However, she said they had been denied access to western parts of the country to investigate claims there.

"The fact that we have not found evidence is not to say it did not happen," she told the BBC.

She added that Amnesty did have information to confirm reports of other human rights violations, including "the repeated and discriminate attacks on residential areas" by pro-Gaddafi forces.

Map of fighting

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