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Alexandre Meneghini, Associated Press
Painter Rafat Askar, 46, rests at the seaside of the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. The paint on the wall reads: "Libya Free."

ZAWIYA, Libya — Libyan rebels are in full control of the strategic western city of Zawiya, pushing Moammar Gadhafi's troops back on the road east to Tripoli.

An Associated Press reporter on Saturday visited positions held by Gadhafi troops over the past week — all of which are now under rebel control.

Very distant shelling could be heard to the east of the city.

The victory in Zawiya is an important boost for the rebels as they try to tighten the noose on Gadhafi's stronghold in Tripoli, just 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the east.

The regime appears to be increasingly isolated, and is scrambling to marshal all the forces available to it to hold back rebels at the western front.