Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's forces scored a major victory Tuesday, recapturing the closest city to the capital Tripoli from pro-democracy rebels.
Zawiyah, located 30 miles west of Tripoli, fell to government troops Monday night as a result of a counter-offensive launched over the weekend. Protracted fighting with rebels who had been in control of the city had lasted for weeks.
The government heavily shelled the city with tank artillery and mortars, according to a witness who spoke to The Associated Press by phone. The witness said Gadhafi's tanks and fighting vehicles were roaming the city and firing randomly at homes.
Scott Wheeler is an investigative journalist and has worked undercover in Libya. He also works with the Republican National Trust Political Action Committee. Click play for his comments on the situation in Libya and why it's having such a dramatic impact on oil prices.
He said electricity, phone, and Internet services have all been cut. The witness spoke to the AP after he managed to escape the city through surrounding farmlands and reach a point outside Zawiya where mobile phone coverage was available.
The recapture of Zawiya was confirmed by regime officials in Tripoli.
"The city is in ruins," he said. "Some buildings have been entirely destroyed and everyone on the street is shot on sight. There are many wounded but the hospitals are running out of supplies," he said.
However, on another front near the opposition-held eastern part of the north African country, loyalist forces are trying to stop rebel troops from advancing toward the capital with airstrikes and rockets. At least 20 people were injured in the fighting.
Representatives of the opposition said they have received an offer to negotiate the terms of Gadhafi's departure.
However, they could not confirm whether the envoy who made the offer was authorized by the regime and said, in any case, they would not negotiate with the government. Libyan state television denied that Gadhafi had sent an envoy to talk to the rebels.
The rebels want to oust Gadhafi from power after more than 41 years, inspired by protesters who managed to topple dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. The Libyan uprising, much more violent than the other two, could be the start of a bloody civil war.
The increasing use of air power by Gadhafi's regime to strike at the rebel forces as they attempt to advance along the Mediterranean coast could prompt world powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.