News / Africa

Libya's NTC Says Battle for Sirte Nears End

National Transitional Council fighters fire a rocket during clashes with pro-Gadhafi forces at the frontline in Sirte, Libya, October 11, 2011.
National Transitional Council fighters fire a rocket during clashes with pro-Gadhafi forces at the frontline in Sirte, Libya, October 11, 2011.

Libya's revolutionary forces say they are close to taking full control in Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

National Transitional Council [NTC] fighters say they have squeezed pro-Gadhafi fighters into two neighborhoods of resistance as the battle for the city continued on Tuesday. There were reports that NTC fighters pushed Gadhafi loyalists to areas in the north of the city, now mostly taken over by the NTC.

Burned-out vehicles blocked roads as provisional government tanks and artillery pounded pro-Gadhafi positions.

In recent days, NTC fighters in Sirte took three important landmarks - the city's main hospital, the university and the Ouagadougou convention center that Gadhafi loyalists had used as their main base of operation.

Most NTC forces attacking Sirte are from other towns, putting them at a disadvantage against the remnants of Gadhafi's army and local civilians who know the city well.

NTC officials say 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.

The U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, expressed concern Monday about the impact of the fighting on civilians who are still in Sirte.  She said that water, food and medicine are running low in the city, and that supplies are waiting to be brought in as further humanitarian access is established.

Sirte is 360 kilometers east of Libya's capital, Tripoli, and has served as a center of support for Gadhafi. Anti-Gadhafi fighters have been trying to move into the city for three weeks.

In the southern city of Bani Walid - the other remaining pro-Gadhafi bastion - revolutionary fighters have retreated from the town center after facing heavy sniper fire and booby-traps, but they still hold the airport and two nearby villages.

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