Libyan rebels on Wednesday drove Muammar Qaddafi’s forces from the airport in the besieged city of Misrata, early reports suggest.
Witnesses told the BBC that the rebels clashed with pro-Qaddafi forces overnight, and that bodies of the government loyalists could been seen lying in the streets as celebrations broke out among the rebels.
Misrata is Libya’s third largest city and is strategically important because of its deep-sea port. The western city is a key rebel stronghold and has been repeatedly shelled by Qaddafi in recent weeks.
The capture of the airport is a major victory for the rebels because it provides a key access point for humanitarian aid, CNN reports. But Wednesday’s victory also comes with more immediate spoils. The AFP reports that the rebels claim to have captured dozens of rockets from the government troops during the battle for the airport.
It is unclear how much of a role that NATO played in the rebels’ victory. Alliance forces have been conducting air strikes in eastern Libya, but the BBC reports that observers say it is not known to what extent they have helped in western Libya, where Misrata is located.