News / Africa

Gadhafi Loyalists Resist at Bani Walid and Sirte

Former rebel fighters take cover from incoming fire from Gadhafi's loyalists at the northern gate of Bani Walid, Libya, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Former rebel fighters take cover from incoming fire from Gadhafi's loyalists at the northern gate of Bani Walid, Libya, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011

Fighters loyal to Libya's ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi continued Sunday to defend their strongholds of Bani Walid and Sirte, as their former rebel opponents struggle to gain ground.

It was another day of fighting as forces loyal to the ousted Libyan leader fired mortar rounds and rockets at former rebels trying to advance on the coastal stronghold of Sirte.

Anti-Gadhafi fighters from the town of Misrata hold the southern entrance to Sirte but have been unable to punch through Gadhafi defenses.  Witnesses say pro-Gadhafi forces have dug into residential areas, and street fighting continues.

Witnesses say the Gadhafi loyalists have large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition and could hold out for a long time.  Anti-Gadhafi fighters reportedly control a small town east of Sirte as well as the city's main airport.

Bitter fighting also engulfed the Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid, in the desert south of Sirte.  An advance by former rebels was pushed back Saturday and Gadhafi loyalists continue to hold the high ground inside the city, pounding their opponents with rockets and mortars.

Al Jazeera TV reported that NATO planes carried out airstrikes on pro-Gadhafi positions at Bani Walid overnight.  

A commander of the anti-Gadhafi forces, Abdel Salam Qanuna, says his men have surrounded Bani Walid.

He says the revolutionary fighters control all entrances to the city and are making tactical retreats according to the situation.

Gadhafi loyalists also continue to defend a third stronghold at Sabha, along the desert road leading to southern Libya.  Witnesses say street fighting continues inside Sabha but that rebel forces appeared to be gaining ground.

Libya's National Transitional Council was expected to announce the formation of a new interim government late Sunday but the announcement was delayed, apparently due to differences over who would be named to what position.

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