NTC pounds Gaddafi fighters in Sirte, clashes in Tripoli

Forces from Libya`s new regime launched a fierce assault on two areas of Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.

Last Updated: Oct 15, 2011, 00:21 AM IST

Sirte: Forces from Libya`s new
regime launched a fierce assault on two areas of Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte on Friday, as their comrades clashed
with supporters of the fallen strongman in the capital.

The latest offensive in Sirte, aimed at mopping up
remaining pockets of stiff resistance, came a day after
National Transitional Council (NTC) combatants were forced to
withdraw under a hail of withering sniper fire.

At least four people were killed and 46 wounded in
Friday`s fighting, said a medic at a field hospital in eastern
Sirte, Abdulsalam Abdelkani. "All the injuries are sniper
shots and bullet wounds."

A news agency correspondent said shortly before 1:00 pm local
time, a large column of NTC forces, some in trucks and some on
foot, pushed out of the central police HQ towards loyalist
positions in the Dollar and Number Two districts.

Huge plumes of thick black smoke billowed above both
neighbourhoods amid an intense grenade and mortar bombardment
and almost continuous machinegun fire.

NTC fighters opened up with 130 mm cannons, after
their troops eased back to allow for the bombardment.

"We shelled the two areas for six hours. Our scouting
teams had identified targets," said Colonel Tawfiq al-Jazwim,
supervising the attack on the Dollar and Number Two districts.

"We fired dozens of Grad rockets and some artillery
shells. There has been no similar response incoming. We`ve
stopped the shelling for the evening. If required, we will
start again tomorrow," he said.

NTC scouts had earlier probed loyalist defences,
advancing as far as two kilometres (just over a mile) west
from the central police headquarters before pulling back.

New regime troops seized a school on the edge of the
Dollar neighbourhood from which they launched the heavy
bombardment. The 100-strong force came under intense return

The fighters were later heading back to NTC base for
the night.

Defiant Gaddafi loyalists in the two areas of
northwest Sirte have been staging a determined last stand that
has put paid to NTC hopes of a swift mop-up.

"They are shooting at us. They have good positions in
buildings and they have snipers," said NTC fighter Amed
al-Figi from Misrata. "We are making progress but it is

NTC commanders said on Thursday the Gaddafi remnants
were cornered within about two square kilometres of the city.
Four NTC fighters were killed on Thursday, including
two by friendly fire, and another 40 were wounded, mostly by
snipers, said Rawad Friwan, a surgeon at a field hospital on
Sirte`s western outskirts.

Sirte is a key goal for the NTC, which has said it
will not proclaim Libya`s liberation and begin preparing for
the transition to an elected government until the city has

The regime began its siege of Sirte on September 15
before launching what it termed a "final assault" on October 7
that has seen at least 95 of its fighters killed and hundreds
wounded, according to medics.