VINEYARD HAVEN (AFP) – The White House predicted Sunday that Moamer Kadhafi’s days as leader of Libya were numbered, as rebel forces fired the opening shots in a battle for Tripoli.

President Barack Obama received a briefing from senior national security staffer John Brennan at his rented farmhouse on the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, which included inputs from a US team in rebel stronghold Benghazi.

“The United States continues to communicate closely with our allies, partners, and the (rebels’ Transitional National Council),” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

“We believe that Kadhafi’s days are numbered, and that the Libyan people deserve a just, democratic and peaceful future,” he said, repeating a line frequently used by the administration throughout the Libya crisis.

Rebel advances on Libya came as NATO appeared to intensify its air strikes in Libya, after urging civilians to avoid areas around government installations and arsenals.

Rebels free prisoners in Tripoli

Libyan rebels seized control of an army barracks at a western entrance to Tripoli on Sunday, raiding arms and ammunition, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Hundreds of rebel fighters entered the military base which lies some 27 kilometres (16 miles) from Tripoli on the road from the port city of Zawiyah.

Libyan rebels on Sunday released dozens of prisoners held in Maya, 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Tripoli, as they marched towards the capital, an AFP journalist said.

The pale and emaciated prisoners, including some showing apparent signs of beatings and torture on their bodies, were driven away from the detention centre in the middle of a clash around the jail.

The prisoners were locked in small metal container-like cells, each holding an average 20 inmates.

Backed by tanks, heavy machineguns and assault rifles, rebels were marching from the western Nafusa mountains towards Tripoli, clashing with loyalist forces at different points along the road.

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