Ten people were killed on Thursday and dozens more wounded when pro-government forces attacked the rebellious Libyan town of Az-Zawiyah, only 50km from the capital, a newspaper reported.
Az-Zawiya is a crowded, middle-class town home to a number of pro-Gaddafi military officers and the site of Libya's biggest oil refinery. Al Jazeera news agency stated there were fierce clashes between pro- and anti-government forces for control of the key town.
As the battle to unseat Gadaffi encircles the capital, the Libyan president addresses the elders of Az-Zawiyah via television, where he accuses a drug-crazed mob of youths spurred by Al-Qaeda of killing four policemen.
The state news agency, Jana, reported it as three "terrorists" that attacked a security forces post in Az-Zawiyah and slit the throats of three policemen on Thursday, amid news of heavy fighting in the town.
Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, the embattled 68-year-old president and former colonel fretted about unrest in Az-Zawiyah and urged the elders to bring their children under control.
Al-Jazeera quoted witnesses as saying that an army unit led by Gaddafi ally, Naji Shifsha, had blasted the minaret of a mosque occupied by protesters in Az-Zawiyah.
Witnesses also told the Qatar-based station that pro-Gaddafi forces had attacked another three cities, including Sabratha, which lies between Az-Zawiyah and the capital; and Misurata at 200km east - and Sabha 650km inland from Tripoli.