NTC pounds Gaddafi fighters in Sirte, clashes in Tripoli
  • This Section
  • Latest
  • Web Wrap
Last Updated: Saturday, October 15, 2011, 00:21
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 fire.

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 difficult."

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 fallen.

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.


First Published: Friday, October 14, 2011, 16:09

comments powered by Disqus