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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Libyan Interior Minister Flies to Cairo in Apparent Defection

VOA News August 15, 2011

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's interior minister has flown to the Egyptian capital with nine family members in the latest apparent defection from the Libyan government.

Egyptian airport officials say Libyan Interior Minister Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah and his relatives arrived in Cairo early Monday on a private jet from the Tunisian resort island of Djerba. They say the minister entered Egypt on a tourist visa and was not greeted by any officials from Gadhafi's embassy in Cairo.

Published reports quote sources in Djerba as saying Gadhafi's aides held talks with Libyan rebels under tight security at a local hotel on Sunday.

In an audio message broadcast on Libyan television early Monday, Gadhafi urged people to fight to "to liberate Libya" from rebel "traitors," as he called them.

Rebels have been pushing closer to his power base in the capital Tripoli. On Sunday, they claimed to have seized control of parts of the strategic city of Zawiya - a claim the Libyan government denies.

Zawiya is near a major highway and is just 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. Rebel control of the city would cut off Tripoli from its supply lines.

Rebels say they pushed farther into western districts of the coastal city on Sunday, despite intense clashes with forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Rebels hoisted pre-Gadhafi-era flags over the city and fired celebratory shots into the air. But, a Gadhafi spokesman said the government remained in control. Moussa Ibrahim said pro-government forces had stopped a small group of rebel fighters and were in the process of defeating them.

Zawiya has changed hands several times. It was one of the first cities to rebel against Gadhafi, shortly after the anti-government uprising began in February.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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