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Kaddafi forces renew battle for Sirte

By on September 18, 2011

Libyan interim government forces bent on seizing Muammar Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds

fell back after another chaotic attack on the desert town of Bani Walid on Sunday, but renewed their battle for the deposed leader’s birthplace of Sirte.

Motley forces of the ruling National Transitional Council have met stiff resistance in Gaddafi’s last bastions, which they must capture before the NTC can declare Libya “liberated” and begin work on a constitution before elections.

Since Tripoli fell to rebels on August 23, rumours have swirled about whether Gaddafi is in Bani Walid, Sirte, the southern desert town of Sabha or elsewhere. His fugitive spokesman told Reuters on Saturday the ousted leader was still in Libya, directing resistance.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters have tried several times to storm Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of Tripoli in recent days. Their latest attempt ended on Sunday with a retreat in disorder under heavy rocket fire from the town’s defenders.

NTC fighters said they had planned for tanks and pickup trucks with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to lead the attack, but foot soldiers had piled in first without orders.

“There is a lack of organisation so far. Infantry men are running in all directions,” said Zakaria Tuham, a senior fighter with a Tripoli-based brigade. “Our commanders had been told that heavy artillery units had already gone ahead, but when we advanced into Bani Walid they were nowhere to be seen.

“Gaddafi forces were hitting us heavily with rockets and mortars, so we have pulled out.” (Reuters)

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