FORCES loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have entered the western town of Zuwarah after clashes with rebels in which at least one person was killed, a witness says.

“Gaddafi’s militias and forces entered the town today. Youths were chanting peaceful slogans that they did not want any fighting but they came under fire,” the resident, who took part in the demonstration, said by telephone.

“There was an exchange of gunfire. A young man of about 30 was killed and another lost a leg. There were other wounded,” he said, asking not to be named.

“There is no more shooting now but the situation is dangerous,” the source said. Zuwarah, which in normal times has 20,000 residents, has turned into a ghost town.  A pro-Gaddafi source gave the same death toll. “The armed forces now control the town and they are pursuing armed elements in the town,” 120km west of Tripoli, he said.

Most residents of Zuwarah are non-Arab Amazighs of Berber origin, who make up 10 per cent of the Libyan population and mainly live in the western mountains or southern deserts.  Mr Gaddafi denies their existence and they complain of being marginalised and deprived of their cultural and linguistic identity.

A government-organised media trip 10 days earlier from Tripoli west to the Tunisian border passed through Zuwarah, where journalists saw clear traces of violence from clashes between anti-regime protesters and security forces.

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