Libyan forces enter Gaddafi hometown

Posted on September 27, 2011


Mass grave of 1,700 prisoners found

Libyan families fleeing the city of Sirte wait in line with their vehicles to be searched by National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters, some 20 kilometres west of Sirte yesterday as anti-Gaddafi fighters encircled the ousted leader’s hometown from the east, south and west and Nato warplanes pounded the city for a third straight day.Photo: AFPAgencies

Libyan provisional government forces backed by Nato warplanes raced into the eastern outskirts of Sirte yesterday and fought street battles with Muammar Gaddafi loyalists.

Earlier, anti-Gaddafi fighters encircled the ousted leader’s hometown of Sirte as Nato warplanes pounded the city for a third straight day.

The siege of one of Muammar Gaddafi’s last bastions comes as Libya’s new rulers said they had unearthed a mass grave in Tripoli of 1,700 prisoners slain by his regime in a 1996 uprising, a massacre that helped trigger the revolt that ousted the despot.

Thick black smoke billowed into the air as National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters battled loyalist troops at a roundabout about 2 km from the centre of the deposed leader’s home town, Reuters journalists said.

The thud of large explosions could be heard as Nato aircraft roared overhead. NTC fighters said the jets were striking the positions of Gaddafi loyalists.

Nato would not comment on its operations in Sirte yesterday. It said its planes hit eight targets on Sunday, including ammunition stores and rocket launchers.

NTC fighters fought with machineguns and rifles and moved tanks and heavy artillery into the town.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters west of Sirte had driven to within a few hundred meters (yards) of its center on Saturday before pulling back on Sunday to make way for Nato strikes.

On the west of Sirte yesterday, NTC tanks shelled loyalist positions in the center.

Interim government forces have previously retreated from Sirte and the other remaining Gaddafi stronghold, Bani Walid, after poorly organized attacks met fierce resistance from loyalists.

As fighters loyal to the new leadership tightened the vice around Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte, civilians fleeing the city of some 70,000 spoke of rapidly deteriorating conditions for the remaining residents.

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