"They are my heroes," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said today as he visited Benghazi, Libya — a rebel-held city where the opposition to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is centered.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and top GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the highest-ranking American official to visit rebel-held Eastern Libya, The Associated Press writes.
NPR's Peter Kenyon, who is is in Benghazi, adds that McCain's visit comes "amid signs of an increase in support from Washington for the rebels" — including yesterday's announcement that the U.S. is going to be flying armed Predator drones over Libya for use against Gadhafi's forces.
As The Guardian notes, McCain has "pushed for the arming of rebels, saying the US and its partners cannot allow Gaddafi to consolidate his grip on key areas of the country and create a military deadlock."
Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. U.S. Should Recognize Rebels' Transitional Council, McCain Says:
"U.S. Senator John McCain on Friday called on the United States to recognize Libyan rebels' transitional council as the true voice of the Libyan people and transfer frozen assets to them," Reuters reports from Benghazi.
We've updated our headline as well to reflect that news.
[Note: NPR follows Associated Press style on the spelling of Gadhafi's name. Other news outlets use different spellings.]