BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan rebels forced government troops from three western towns and broke the siege on another, a rebel commander said Friday, and NATO pounded 10 targets across the country.

The heavy bombing and rebel victories, plus the first publicized diplomatic contact between China and the rebel leadership, reflect the continued erosion of Moammar Gadhafi’s power since the eruption in mid-February of uprisings to end his 42-year rule.

Local fighters won control of four towns in the western Nafusa mountain range, where government forces have besieged and randomly shelled rebel-held areas for months, a rebel military leader said Friday.

After weeks of siege, government forces drove about seven tanks and a number of armored vehicles into Yifran in early May and surrounded its near neighbor Galaa, Col. Jumaa Ibrahim of the region’s rebel military council said via Skype.

Fighters who had fled then used their knowledge of area to chip away at the government forces, he said.

“They started with hit-and-run attacks,” he said. “They know all the hills and valleys, so they were able to trick the brigades and destroy some of their vehicles.”

On Friday, the fighters entered the town to find that the last government forces had fled the day before.
Rebel fighters also pushed government fighters from Shakshuk and Qasr al-Haj, two villages near a key road, Ibrahim said. The latter holds an important power station for local towns.

The small rebel force in the western mountains is unlikely to threaten Gadhafi’s hold on Tripoli, 45 miles northwest, but the victories could bring relief to local residents by opening up roads between their communities. The western mountain population is tiny compared to the large rebel-held territories in east Libya.

Also Friday, at least 10 NATO airstrikes hit the capital and elsewhere in Libya. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties.