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article imageSirte: the final battle for Libya

By Katerina Nikolas     Oct 8, 2011 in World
National Transitional Council fighters have launched a final assault on Sirte. Although they have control of much of the city they have met fierce resistance from pro-Gaddafi fighters, and resentment from fleeing civilians.
National Transitional Council fighters have launched what they claim is the final assault on Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, moving into the city from east and west. There are reports of many casualties as they meet fierce opposition from pro-Gaddafi fighters who have gathered in the concrete reinforced Ouagadougou conference centre to fight off attacks. Aljazeera reported “the loyalists holed up inside are putting up a fierce fight. According to [NTC] fighters, most of the men inside are 'wanted criminals' so it's not in their interest to lay down their arms." There are also reports of violent street fighting in the city centre, around the university and the Mauritian Quarter.
NATO, subject of much criticism for conducting air strikes over the city whilst civilians remain, is not engaging in air strikes at this time, leaving the fighting to the two opposing sides. No one knows how many civilians remain trapped in Sirte where conditions are dire, with no water, food or electricity. Thousands have escaped but in addition to Sirte residents there are refugees from other parts of Libya caught in the crossfire. One fleeing resident estimated that fewer than half of the civilian population remains in the city. Abdel Nasser, an escaping resident, told the Guardian "Last night there was heavy, random firing and shelling. We had a hundred narrow escapes. Conditions are tragic. You can smell the rotting corpses at the hospital."According to Aljazeera “Many among the thousands of residents who have escaped complained that the biggest danger was not Gaddafi loyalists but the bombs that drop from the sky and the ones the NTC fighters lob into their Mediterranean port city.” The NTC's Information Minister, Mahmoud Shamman, told the BBC that civilians in the city were being "kept hostage by Gaddafi fighters,” but this contrasts with the information from civilians actually leaving the city. Aljazeera reported civilians who “have left expressed resentment against anti-Gaddafi fighters and NATO as well.”
The United Nations Envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, has "called on both sides to respect human rights and appealed to the NTC to avoid reprisals.” (BBC)The NTC is keen to declare victory in Sirte so they can claim that Libya is liberated from Gaddafi and the country is united.
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