Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Fighting continues in key battle areas

Fighting continues in key battle areas of Sirte and Bani Walid. Although interim leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, emphasised to journalists in Tripoli that National Transitional Council (NTC) is making headway in Sirte, it is evident that his claims that fighting would be over at the end of this week are not concrete predictions. Bani Walid continues to be mostly under siege. It is largely considered to be less of a prize than Sirte, given that there are only few major routes in its environs.

In Sirte, yet another push towards the centre was delayed on 8th October by a sandstorm, which affected visibility for both sides. On 9th October, however, despite coming under heavy sniper fire, NTC fighters reportedly took the al Giza district. NTC officials also reported the symbolic capture of Sirte University, Ibn Sina hospital and the Ouagadougou Halls, from which it is believed that resistance was being directed by pro Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi forces.

If this position can be held, Qadhafi loyalists are left only with a Qadhafi compound and a small residential area in its vicinity.This will deal a psychological blow, particularly as the Ouagadougou centre was a showpiece of the Qadhafi regime, used for many international engagements. Pro-Qadhafi soldiers have been joined by civilians in attacks on the NTC fighters.

Many civilians in Sirte appear to fear reprisals from NTC forces. Whether this fear stems from Qadhafi's propaganda or is based in reality remains to be seen. Revolutionary fighters have received losses in counter attacks. Figures estimated on 9th October suggest 17 dead and 87 wounded during the day's fighting.

On 6th October, a Syrian based satellite channel broadcast the first message from Qadhafi for some time. In the poor quality recording, the voice purporting to be that of the Libyan Leader called on Libyans to resist the NTC, join in marches against the interim government and to restore the 'green flag'. Qadhafi called conditions in Libya 'unbearable' and claimed that his forces would be launching an attack to take the city of Sirte following Friday prayers. So far, attacks by loyalist fighters have been fierce but not entirely successful.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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