News / Africa

NTC Fighters Capture Parts of Gadhafi Stronghold of Sirte

Libyan revolutionary fighters fire toward pro-Gadhafi forces in Sirte, Libya, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011
Libyan revolutionary fighters fire toward pro-Gadhafi forces in Sirte, Libya, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011

Fighters loyal to Libya's National Transitional Council captured some strategic places inside the Gadhafi stronghold of Sirte Sunday.

Gunbattles between fighters for Libya's National Transitional Council and forces loyal to ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi continued across parts of Sirte Sunday, with the loyalists losing large chunks of territory, including the city's university and international convention center.

One rebel commander claimed that Gadhafi loyalists were being driven back into an increasingly smaller pocket of territory inside Sirte

He said the Gadhafi forces are surrounded from the east and west in a shrinking perimeter that now measures about seven square kilometers. He added the rebels are attacking from all sides.

Al Arabiya TV showed NTC fighters controlling Sirte's Ouagadougou Center, which had been a command and control post for Gadhafi forces. The center, which hosted the 2010 Arab and African Union summits, appeared to have pocked walls and shattered windows from shell-fire and shoot-outs.

There were conflicting reports about which side controlled Sirte's main Avicenna Hospital. Several witnesses indicated that pro-Gadhafi snipers were still operating in the city center, near the hospital.

Dr. Mohammed Tantoun told Al Hurra TV that wounded fighters continue to pour in.

He said the wounds he has been treating vary from serious to medium, but that in the last several hours most of the injuries were more serious, mostly to the head and chest.

Another former center of resistance, known as Housing Block 700, also fell to NTC fighters. Some cinder block walls appeared to have collapsed and most windows were shattered in the once gleaming residential block.

Elsewhere, south of Sirte, pro-Gadhafi fighters continued to hold most of the desert town of Bani Walid, but NTC combatants were reported to have taken its airport.

Omar Ashour, who teaches political science at the University of Exeter in Britain, says it is still possible that Moammar Gadhafi could fight a low-level insurgency even after NTC forces gain control of Sirte and Bani Walid.

“There is still the Bani Walid front and there are still several pockets in the south, because what happens is that, as we saw in Sirte, some of the militias and the armed groups with Gadhafi, they move around. So, if they are able to disperse and move to several of the southern pockets, this may lead to a low-level insurgency that can last for a while.”

However, Ashour believes that Gadhafi is running out of financial resources to buy the loyalty of his supporters. He says that if the ousted leader is denied resources, especially from places like Niger, Algeria and elsewhere, he will have less and less support in the south of Libya.

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