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Libya's NTC Offensive Continues in Gadhafi Stronghold

A Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter holds a golden gun, marked in Arabic al-Jamahiyra (Gadhafi's people's republic) (File)

A Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter holds a golden gun, marked in Arabic al-Jamahiyra (Gadhafi's people's republic) (File)

Libyan provisional government fighters say efforts to oust remaining loyalists of former leader Moammar Gadhafi in his hometown of Sirte are focused on two neighborhoods, amid conflicting reports that one of Gadhafi's sons has been arrested.

Fighting Thursday included rocket fire in Sirte, where anti-Gadhafi fighters say they control more than 80 percent of the city.

National Transitional Council officials have said the capture of Sirte will allow them to declare the country liberated, because it will mean the provisional government controls all of Libya's ports and harbors.

On Wednesday, some NTC officials said Gadhafi's son Mutassim was captured in Sirte and taken to the eastern city of Benghazi for questioning. But a spokesman for the provisional government's military council was not able to confirm this. Jalal el-Gallal said revolutionary forces did capture some fighters believed to be with Mutassim in Sirte, but that he had no information regarding the status of Gadhafi's son.

Mutassim was Libya's national security adviser and had a strong role in the military and security forces under his father's government.

There have been false reports regarding the capture of senior Gadhafi figures in the past, including that of another son, Saif al-Islam, who is still on the run.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is urging the NTC to end arbitrary detentions and "widespread abuse" of detainees, saying there is a risk of repeating patterns of former leader

In a report released Thursday, London-based rights group said it found a pattern of beatings and ill-treatment of pro-Gadhafi soldiers, suspected loyalists and alleged mercenaries in western Libya.

The group said its findings are based on interviews of about 300 prisoners during August and September.

Amnesty International is calling on the National Transitional Council to allow those being held to challenge their detentions or be released. The group said the NTC has acknowledged its concerns and promised to ensure that detainees receive equal protection under the law.

Sirte is 360 kilometers east of Libya's capital, Tripoli, and has served as a center of support for Gadhafi. Provisional government forces have been trying to take the town for weeks.