Thursday, October 20, 2011

Libyan fighters capture Gaddafi hometown

Tripoli : Libyan fighters have finaly captured the remaining positions of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists in his home town of Sirte. Reporters at the scene watched as the final assault began around 8am local time on Thursday and ended about 90 minutes later. 

Just before the assault, about five carloads of loyalists tried to flee the enclave down the coastal highway but were met by gunfire from the revolutionaries, who killed at least 20 of them. Revolutionaries have began searching homes and buildings, looking for any Gaddafi fighters who might be hiding there.

At least 16 pro-Gaddafi fighters were captured, along with multiple cases of ammunition and trucks loaded with weapons. Reporters saw revolutionaries beating captured Gaddafi men in the back of trucks and officers intervening to stop them. 

Gaddafi loyalists mounted fierce resistance in several areas, including Sirte, despite the fall of Tripoli on August 21, preventing Libya's new leaders from declaring full victory in the eight-month civil war. Earlier this week, revolutionary fighters gained control of one stronghold, Bani Walid, and by Tuesday they said they had squeezed Gaddafi's forces in Sirte into a residential area of about 700 square meters but were still coming under heavy fire from surrounding buildings. 

Deputy defence minister Fawzi Abu Katif told the AP on Wednesday that authorities still believed Gaddafi's son Muatassim was among the ex-regime figures holed up in the diminishing area in Sirte. 

He was not seen on the ground after the final battle on Thursday. In an illustration of how difficult and slow the fighting for Sirte was, it took the anti-Gaddafi fighters, who also faced disorganisation in their own ranks, two days to capture a single residential building.

It is unclear whether Gaddafi loyalists who have escaped might continue the fight and attempt to organise an insurgency using the vast amount of weaponry Gaddafi is believed to have stored in hideouts in the remote southern desert. 

Unlike Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi had no well-organised political party that could form the basis of an insurgent leadership. However, regional and ethnic differences have already appeared among the ranks of the revolutionaries, possibly laying the foundation for civil strife. 

Gaddafi, who is in hiding, has issued several audio recordings trying to rally supporters. Libyan officials have said they believe he is hiding somewhere in the vast southwestern desert near the borders with Niger and Algeria.

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