Death Toll Rises in Sirte


More than 18 people were killed and nearly 300 wounded on Saturday in a two days of clashes as Libya’s new regime fighters struggled to take full control of Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.

The push by National Transitional Council fighters squeezed Qaddafi’s diehard loyalists into an ever tighter net in Sirte.

Forces from Libya’s interim regime scored a strategic goal on Saturday, seizing a four-lane avenue which opens the way to a final assault on a key base of Qaddafi’s troops.

But with thousands of civilians still trapped inside the town, NTC commanders said they were pacing their advance to evacuate some of those who had not fled and to avoid more causalities.

Attacking from the east, NTC fighters seized the road to the Ouagadougou conference centre, a key base of pro-Qaddafi fighters still holding out after days of heavy pounding by NTC tank, cannon and rocket fire and ground assaults.

Commander of the east frontline, Abdel Salam Gad Allah said, "The Gaddafi forces and his loyalists are so limited and they are besieged in few kilometres. A week ago, they came together to battle against us and now we are seizing them from all sides. They are hiding in the University of Sirte, Ouagadougou centre, Ibn Sinai clinic and some buildings, but their number is so small. We are seizing Sirte from all sides and I hope the battle will end within 24 hours,"

The advancing forces reached within between 500 meters and one kilometer of the centre and the nearby university, as Qaddafi loyalists responded with sporadic mortar and small arms fire.

As the battle for Sirte appeared to be nearing its end, the United Nations urged the NTC, which has ruled most of the country since its forces captured Tripoli on August 23, to avoid revenge attacks

Abdel Salam Gad Allah, a Commander of the east frontline

Voice: Mustapha Ajbaili