- Title: LIBYA: Half of Sirte is under interim government control says a local commander
- Date: 6th October 2011
- Summary: SIRTE, LIBYA (OCTOBER 5, 2011) (REUTERS) NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL FIGHTERS TRUCKS ON ROAD, TANKS IN BACKGROUND VARIOUS FIGHTERS GATHERED ON ROADSIDE RESIDENTIAL AREA AND MOSQUE OF SIRTE IN THE DISTANCE TANK DRIVING, AUDIO OF SHOT, DUST COVERING SCREEN HOWITZER BEING FIRED MORE OF SHOTS BEING FIRED, SMOKE COVERING SCREEN ROCKET FIRED FROM TANK MORE OF TANK FIGHTERS GATHERED FIGHTERS DISCUSSING TACTICS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) 'FREE LIBYA BRIGADE' COMMANDER, MOHAMMAD RAMADAN ABULKASSEM, SAYING: "God willing, we will be entering on Friday. God willing, after prayers, you will watch us entering the city of Sirte and we will liberate it from those who are endangering our future state." FIGHTER CARRYING ROCKET FIGHTERS GATHERED AROUND HOWITZER HOWITZER BEING FIRED, SMOKE BLASTING OUT VARIOUS OF FIGHTERS LOOKING THROUGH BINOCULARS SIRTE IN THE DISTANCE VARIOUS OF FIGHTERS PREPARING AND FIRING WEAPONS FIGHTERS GATHERED, SHELL CASINGS ON THE GROUND FIGHTERS STANDING ON TANK, LOOKING INTO DISTANCE
- Embargoed: 21st October 2011 13:00
- Location: Libya
- Country: Libya
- Topics: Conflict
- Reuters ID: LVA40UOQT494C6NRGBC1J0XOL2QW
- Story Text: Libyan government forces fought their way, street by street, into the centre of Muammar Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirte on Wednesday (October 5) 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.
"God willing, we will be entering on Friday. God willing, after prayers, you will watch us entering the city of Sirte and we will liberate it from those who are endangering our future state," said Commander of the Free Libya Brigade Mohammad Ramadan Abul Kassem.
The Free Libya Brigade fired weapons from their location on the road to Sirte as they prepared for their final assault on the town.
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.
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.
On a ridge near the spot where a Red Cross convoy was waiting, two NTC tanks were lined up and firing shells into the city. Each shot sent up a cloud of dust and shook the small trees nearby. Off in the distance, columns of smoke rose up from where the shells hit.
There was no evidence of the Gaddafi loyalists responding with their own heavy weapons. That may be the result of days of bombardment of loyalist positions by NTC artillery batteries backed by NATO aircraft.
There was no sign either of civilian vehicles leaving, in contrast to previous days when hundreds of families have driven out of the city to seek refuge elsewhere.
The NTC -- anxious not to be seen using the same violent tactics that Gaddafi employed against rebel strongholds earlier in the conflict -- says it delayed its final push into Sirte until all the civilians who wanted to leave were out.
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