Monday, 3 October 2011

NTC launches new offensive on Sirte

National Transitional Council (NTC) forces have launched another offensive on the pro Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi town of Sirte. Rocket and tank fire bombarded the town after two days of on-land fighting.

It is estimated that hundreds more people have fled Sirte, but humanitarian workers believe thousands remain in the city unable or unwilling to leave. In the south, more than 1,200 African migrants are being evacuated to Chad.

NTC forces have taken up most of their artillery in order to try and take control of the town and Qadhafi's loyalists, who have resisted their efforts for the last three weeks.

It has been reported by the BBC that NTC forces are having trouble advancing, and have no idea how long the capture might take. BBC's Jonathan Head said: “There is no sign the government fighters have a plan to break through… When they get to the centre of Sirte, what they will face is fighting from building to building, and opponents who have proved to be very accurate with their weapons and very determined in their resistance.”

Hundreds of residents left the town in overcrowded vehicles, but it is believed that thousands of others remain, some wounded, some without basic provisions, some too petrified to leave their homes.

Sirte is one of the few remaining of Qadhafi's stronghold's and also his birthplace. The whereabouts of Qadhafi remain unknown. A NATO official has denied reports that a NATO helicopter was shot down over the city.

Sources: Reuters, BBC News, Bloomberg

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

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