Libyan rebels seized the mountain town of Yafran today, driving out Muammar Gaddafi's forces in a sign NATO air strikes may be paying off.

Yafran, 100km southwest of Tripoli, is in the Western Mountains where the population, mostly from the Berber ethnic minority, have joined the uprising against Gaddafi.

The town is spread over a hill, the bottom part of which had been controlled by pro-Gaddafi forces for more than a month and used to besiege the rebel-controlled part, where food, drinking water and medicines were running short.

British warplanes destroyed two tanks and two armoured personnel carriers in Yafran on 2 June.

Meanwhile, at least two powerful blasts were heard early this evening in Tripoli, where NATO has been bombing targets of Gaddafi's government since March.

Libyan television said the neighbourhood of al-Karama was hit by NATO forces.

It later said a telecoms station was hit in a bombing.

The rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of mountains near the border with Tunisia. But they have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi's better-equipped forces, despite NATO air strikes.

Asked about reports of rebel gains in the Western mountain area, Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters government forces could retake rebel territory in hours, but were holding back from doing so to avoid civilian casualties.