Top Libyan defector is quizzed over Colonel Gaddafi ties

LIBYAN rebels last night detained their own top military commander for questioning on suspicion his family might still have ties to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's regime.

Rebel military spokesman Mohammed al-Rijali said commanderAbdel Fattah Younes was taken from his operations room near the front to the main rebel stronghold, the eastern city of Benghazi, for interrogation.

Younes, who served as Gaddafi's interior minister but defected at the beginning of the fighting, was being questioned about suspected familial ties to the Libyan regime.

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The move came as hundreds of rebels in western Libya launched a broad offensive against Gaddafi forces, seizing three small towns and advancing on others to secure a major supply route near the Tunisian border.

Rebel fighters descended from their stronghold in the Nafusa mountains at dawn and advanced more than 60 miles, said rebel spokesmen Badees Fessato and Abdel-Salam Othman, driving Gaddafi troops out of Jawsh, Ghezaya and Takut.

Rebels were also advancing toward the town of Badr and two other areas, said Mr Othman.

Jawsh is about 95 miles east of the Tunisian border and on a main road between Tunisia and Tripoli. Ghezaya is closer to the Tunisian border, and had served as a base for shelling attacks by Gaddafi's forces on the rebel-held border town of Nalut.

One of the objectives of the push is to drive back pro-Gaddafi forces from the rebels' supply route between the Tunisian border and the Nafusa mountains Rebels seized control of the Tunisian-Libyan border closest to the Nafusa area in April, but Gaddafi's forces have repeatedly tried to retake it. Britain this week recognised the rebel leadership as the Libyan government.