Jubilant rebels claim Gaddafi's son cornered in Sirte
JUBILANT revolutionary forces raised their flag yesterday over a convention centre in Sirte that served as a base for Gaddafi's loyalists, but fighting surged elsewhere in the town.
Col Younis al-Abdally, a commander in Sirte, said his troops have surrounded pro-Gaddafi fighters in a small area.
He said the final battle is likely to be a fierce one, saying he has information one of Gaddafi's sons and a number of top officials from the former leader's regime are holed up in villas in Sirte.
He spoke as tank, rocket and machine-gun fire echoed through the streets around the Ouagadougou Convention Centre, an ornate complex that Gaddafi frequently used for international summit meetings.
Fighters from the western city of Misrata gained control of Ouagadougou Hall, a walled complex used by Gaddafi loyalists as a base, and the city's main Ibn Sina hospital.
The Ibn Sina morgue was found full of bodies, some bearing name tags, others not, and the humanitarian situation in the hospital was described as dire.
The fighters from Misrata are collaborating with the armed forces loyal to Libya's new National Transitional Council (NTC) though their command structures haven't been integrated.
The NTC's forces advanced from the east to the centre of Sirte, ending fighting that began when negotiations on the port city's peaceful surrender broke down early last month.
Sirte, about 480 kilometres east of the capital, Tripoli, linking the east and western part of the country, is one of the last major strongholds of Gaddafi loyalists.
Its fall is a key step in Libya's transition to democracy as a new government to see the country through to elections won't be announced until a month after it is fully under NTC control.
Senior officials on the NTC, which seized Tripoli at the end of August, attribute the tenacity of the Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte to the possibility that one of the former leader's sons, Mutassim, is there.
Mutassim may have been hiding in the Ibn Sina Hospital, preventing foreign medical workers from leaving, according to the Misrata council.
The United Nations special representative in Libya, Ian Martin, appealed on October 7 to all Libyans to respect calls made by the NTC "that there should be no revenge even against those responsible for war crimes.
The NTC says it will declare "liberation" only after Sirte's capture.