CNN Wire Staff
Ras Lanuf, Libya (CNN) - Libyan government soldiers made headway Thursday against rebel forces, retaking the city of Zawiya, just west of the capital city of Tripoli, after a week of attacks.
ITV News' Bill Neely said he was the first reporter to gain access to the city center, which was firmly in control of the government. Zawiya's main Martyrs' Square was littered with the bombed-out, scorched carcasses of army tanks and other military vehicles. Neely said he counted more than 20 freshly dug graves.
He said doctors had told him that scores of civilians were wounded or killed; they called the onslaught a massacre.
Workers were sweeping up the evidence as Gadhafi supporters chanted slogans and waved green flags. "Today Zawiya, tomorrow Benghazi," Neely said one man told him in a reference to Libya's main rebel-held city in the east.
The city itself, once home to 250,000 residents, appeared largely empty. Shops were closed and houses appeared empty, Neely said.
Pro-government forces waved green flags in support of leader Gadhafi.
State-run television showed off weapons and ammunition that it said had been left behind by the rebels, whom the reporter referred to as "terrorists, dogs and traitors," Neely said.
Payback appears to have begun, said one man, who told ITV that government forces were carrying out house-to-house searches. "They start to arrest people, normal people," he said. "Some of them I know personally; they have nothing to do with what's happening."
Libya said it had also taken control of the key oil port of Ras Lanuf from opposition forces, as international diplomats and leaders maneuvered to counter and undermine the tenacious regime of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Battles also raged in and around Ras Lanuf and many other cities, with the regime using planes and heavy artillery in its effort to reclaim areas that had been taken by the opposition.
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