Lybian rebels seize police building in Gaddafi's last stronghold

Forces found the police station, a site of heavy resistance deserted.


Afp October 11, 2011

LIBYA: Fighters from Libya's new regime on Tuesday seized the police headquarters in the centre of Muamma Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte, the last stronghold for forces loyal to former Libyan president.

Meanwhile, National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters were gearing for a fresh onslaught on the desert town of Bani Walid, another remaining bastion of forces loyal to the ousted dictator, prompting civilians to flee.

In Sirte, jubilant NTC combatants celebrated the takeover of the strategic police building, which they found to be deserted.

They then proceeded to ransack the complex and destroy posters of the fugitive Gaddafi that they found inside.

The building's rooftop offers a panoramic view of the whole city, with the seaside 300-400 metres (yards) to the north and the massive Ouagadougou conference centre, captured on Sunday, several kilometres (miles) to the south.

In contrast to Monday, when NTC forces were pounded with rockets and gunfire as they battled Gaddafi loyalists street by street, they met no resistance on Tuesday as they edged into the city centre.

An advance force of about 30 fighters checked each house as they moved forward from the city's east, kicking in doors and covering each other against possible snipers hidden on rooftops.

Clothing abandoned by soldiers and remains of meals were found in some buildings.

The fighters became more cautious once they reached the city centre, sticking to its edges for fear that snipers were lying in wait.

Fighters celebrated by honking the horns of their vehicles and firing into the air, but the jubilation ended abruptly when one apparently shot himself in the throat accidentally and died on the spot.

Early afternoon, fighting erupted southwest of the central square, a vast esplanade that extends from the base of the police building and dominates the city, an AFP reporter said.

Fighters who had taken over the police headquarters regrouped and were seen heading in that direction.

The NTC forces had besieged Sirte from September 15 before launching on Friday what they termed a "final assault" that has seen at least 70 of their number killed and hundreds wounded, according to medics.

On Sunday, they also captured Sirte's university campus and main hospital.

Wissam bin Ahmid, commander of NTC forces on Sirte's eastern front, said on early Tuesday his fighters were close to overrunning the entire city but still feared for the safety of many civilians.

"There remains still two square kilometres (0.8 square mile) to take to free the city completely," Ahmid told AFP.

"There are still some snipers. But our main worry are the families still in the city who are too afraid to leave their houses as the snipers are using them as firing posts," he said.

Yusef Sultan, a man in his 40s, was hit by a bullet in the leg as he tried to flee in a car.

"We were nine families in one house, 35 people, mostly women and children. We had water but no electricity for two months and survived on rice and bread. The Gaddafi forces prevented us from leaving, slashing the tyres of cars in garages and forcing us to turn back," he said.

Forces close in on Bani Walid

In Bani Walid, an oasis 170 kilometres (105 miles) southeast of Tripoli, the military said NTC fighters withdrew from forward positions in a "tactical pull back" after intense fighting on Sunday.

"We lost 17 fighters in fierce clashes on Sunday and our forces have withdrawn from the airport where they had taken control," said Salem Gheith, head of the NTC military command centre in the capital.

"We've received reinforcements from Tripoli and the Nafusa mountains, and we will resume the offensive," he said.

Civilians fearing more clashes were fleeing Bani Walid on Tuesday, an AFP reporter on the edge of town said.

Fighters at Shumayh checkpoint near the oasis said between 20 and 25 civilian vehicles had passed through by mid-morning.

"We hear that there will be fighting. In the town, there is no doctor, no water, no electricity," said a man in a white Mitsubishi that also carried four veiled women.

He said "more than 20,000" civilians were still holed up in Bani Walid.

"There are mercenaries and militia in the streets," said the man, who was taking his family to a camp west of town for those displaced by the fighting.

NTC fighters distributed fruit juice and sweets to the fleeing families.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the alliance was close to terminating its mission in Libya, but despite NTC advances in Sirte, NATO "had no knowledge of the colonel's whereabouts," adding that Gaddafi "is not a target of our operation."

NTC commanders believe one of Gaddafi's sons, Mutassim, is in Sirte and that another, Seif al-Islam, once seen as the former strongman's successor, is hiding in Bani Walid, possibly with his father.

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, head of the NATO military committee, said that while an NTC victory in Sirte "will be an iconic moment," the alliance will only end its air campaign once civilians are definitely out of harm's way and the NTC is capable of keeping the whole country safe.

"The fall of Sirte is an important element, but like any decision it will not be the only factor," he said.

COMMENTS (1)

Francis | 10 years ago | Reply

why should gaddafic do all this.he should step down for another person to take over what can of hold of power for how many years now

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read