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Libya's NTC Battles for Control of Gadhafi Strongholds


Anti-Gaddafi fighters stand guard after they took over El-Khamseen gate, the eastern gate of Sirte, Libya, September 24, 2011.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters stand guard after they took over El-Khamseen gate, the eastern gate of Sirte, Libya, September 24, 2011.

Libya's provisional government fighters are locked in an intense battle with well-armed loyalists to former leader Moammar Gadhafi for control of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters have pushed into the town's center where they are facing stiff resistance on Saturday from snipers and other pro-Gadhafi forces.

The provisional fighters are also trying to gain the upper hand in Bani Walid, a desert town that is among the few remaining strongholds for Gadhafi's supporters.

Meanwhile, a huge plume of black smoke rose over Tripoli on Saturday after a series of explosions rocked the capital. An NTC fighter said the blasts at a military warehouse may have been accidental.

In another development, NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said an interim government will be announced in the coming week. He commented Saturday in Benghazi, where the NTC has been meeting to discuss the new government's formation.

Jalil said membership in the provisional government is a right guaranteed to all Libyans. He noted that two seats would be reserved for representatives from Sirte, the hometown of Gadhafi.

Earlier, an NTC spokesman said the government would include 22 ministers and a deputy prime minister.

Gadhafi's whereabouts remain unknown. On Friday, his daughter, Aisha Gadhafi, released an audio recording in which she says her father was in high spirits and fighting alongside his supporters.

The message was aired by Syria-based Arrai television. Aisha Gadhafi called the country's new leaders "traitors" because some of them had been part of the Gadhafi government.

Aisha, her mother and two brothers fled to Algeria in August as NTC fighters swept into Tripoli.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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