Libya: Rebels continue to push west from Misrata

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Media captionScenes from the front line near Misrata, as the rebels push towards Zlitan

Libyan rebels are continuing to make progress as they battle west from Misrata towards the key town of Zlitan, on the road to Tripoli.

After more than six weeks of stalemate, the rebels have in recent days pushed back the forces of Col Muammar Gaddafi, despite rocket and mortar fire.

Progress is slow and the rebels have taken heavy casualties, but they say morale is high.

The capital remains some 200km (125 miles) away.

Digging in

Accompanied by a fighter by the name of Ali, we drove several kilometres beyond the entrenched positions that had, for the past month and a half, constituted the front line west of Misrata.

He brought us to a ditch, lined with pine trees and set among olive groves some way back from the coast.

Men were busy digging in. As they dug, they came under almost constant fire from Col Gaddafi's forces, some 500m away.

Rockets and mortars thudded into the earth nearby, bullets whizzed and cracked overhead. The smell of burning cordite mingled with the fragrance of pine needles, heated by the midday sun.

Until just a few days ago, this was Col Gaddafi's front line. Now the rebels hold it and they are slowly pushing their way forward, ditch by ditch, kilometre by kilometre.

Abu Baker, a 22-year-old fighter wearing flip-flops and an Argentina football shirt, said he was not afraid of the shells and the bullets.

"Everyone here has only one thing on his mind," he said. "If we kill him (Gaddafi) we win. And if we die, we go to heaven."

These men are not soldiers. They are students and shopkeepers, accountants and farmers. Their lack of military expertise has cost time and lives. But their commander, Muftah Mohammed, told us morale was high.

"We will hold our ground," he said. "Gaddafi's soldiers are fighting for money, but we are fighting for our freedom and our honour."

As these fighters inch their way westwards, they are gaining in confidence and in experience.

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