Friday 23 March 2018

Battles still rage in Sirte as Gadaffi forces retreat

Libyan government fighters push forward but are met by snipers

Peter Beaumont in Sirte

Columns of Libyan government forces pushed deeper into the heart of Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte yesterday, fighting resistance that appeared ever weaker.

The advance by forces of the interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), was slowed by snipers in several apartment buildings and a bunker. But in some areas the fighters have made significant progress.

The advance came through an area known as the Seven Hundreds, a district of unfinished houses backed by a sprawling suburb that only fell to government forces during fierce fighting on Friday that continued late into the night. Yesterday it was a ghost town -- the streets littered with empty shell casings and smashed cars.

A bulldozer was widening a sandy road leading to a breach in the wall encircling the neighbourhood, which defenders had used as a firing position for weeks. Deserted villas showed signs of the heavy fighting, with holes made by shells and RPGs in the walls of many houses.

The solitary resident was a man of 75, who insisted he had been fed and treated well by revolutionary fighters who had found him.

Since Friday, revolutionary forces have pushed Gaddafi loyalists back several kilometres from defensive positions outside Sirte and are contesting control of the centre of the city in often-chaotic street-by-street battles.

As gun trucks sped ahead, fighters ran to keep up with them, halting only to fire at buildings containing snipers before being stopped at a crossroads.

The fighters said they had the impression the defenders were running low on ammunition. Two were killed early in the fighting, but firing on the column was sporadic.

Taking Sirte would bring Libya's new rulers closer to establishing control of the entire country almost two months after they seized the capital Tripoli. The NTC believes Gaddafi is not in Sirte but far south in the Sahara desert.

© Observer

Sunday Independent

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