Rebels in the east of Libya have advanced rapidly west along the Mediterranean coast aided by Western air strikes towards Sirte, a city near the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi which he has showered with cash.
A spokesman in Benghazi said that rebels had captured Sirte on Monday, but a correspondent in the city said there was no sign of that.
Below are details about the city:
-- Gaddafi fashioned the city, which is about 400 km (250 miles) east of Tripoli, into a second capital designed in his own extravagant image. It had been a small, obscure town before the Libyan leader seized power in 1969.
-- Sirte does not have major energy infrastructure although it is close to major oil reserves. But it still has strategic significance because of a civilian airport that also appears to host a military air base. Satellite images show about 50 reinforced concrete hangars, of the kind usually used to protect fighter planes, in clusters at either end of the runway.
-- A Libyan government spokesman said on March 21 that the airport had been bombed by Western air strikes. He described it as a civilian airport.
-- The centrepiece of Gaddafi's ambitious construction project is the Ouagadougou conference centre. It is a huge marble-lined hall where Gaddafi hosts summits of foreign heads of state. Gaddafi has a tent complex on the beach nearby where favoured leaders are invited to spend the evening.
-- Sirte was where the founding document of the African Union, which has since become known as the Sirte declaration and one of Gaddafi's proudest achievements, was signed in 1999.
-- A US embassy cable published by the WikiLeaks website described a summit of African leaders in Sirte as a "Gaddafi-centric dog and pony show". During international summits, the city is heavily guarded and soldiers line the desert roads leading there every few hundred metres (yards).
-- Traffic was stopped whenever Gaddafi's convoy swept by with its dozens of sports utility vehicles, police outriders on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, and a huge motorhome with communications aerials sticking out of the roof.