Libyan government forces push into centre of Sirte


Libyan government forces fought their way, street by street, into the centre of Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte on Wednesday after their commanders said the battle for the city was entering its final hours.
Taking Sirte would be of huge symbolic importance to Libya’s new rulers because it would mean the biggest pocket of pro-Gaddafi resistance was dealt with, and would allow the interim government to launch the process of democratic elections.
The battle for the city has come at a high cost for civilians. They have been trapped by the fighting with dwindling supplies of food and water and no proper medical facilities to threat the wounded.
The heavy artillery and rocket fire from Gaddafi loyalists that had been keeping fighters with the National Transitional Council (NTC) pinned on the outskirts of the city subsided on Wednesday, allowing the NTC forces to move in.
“More than half the city is under the control of the (anti-Gaddafi) rebels,” said Adel Al-Hasi, a local NTC commander. “In two days, God willing, Sirte will be free.”
A Reuters reporter near the centre of Sirte said she could hear the occasional thump of mortars landing near NTC positions, but that pro-Gaddafi forces had now resorted to using small arms as they switched to close-quarter fighting.
The NTC advance took them towards Sirte’s government quarter, a grid of expensively built hotels, villas and conference centres where Gaddafi used to host foreign leaders.
One group of anti-Gaddafi fighters positioned themselves in a luxury hotel on the Mediterranean coast, using it as cover to fire on loyalists in a residential area about 300 metres (yards) away.

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