Monday, 17 October 2011

NTC troops have entered Bani Walid

It is thought that the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces have entered Bani Walid, one of the last remaining of Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's strongholds. NTC commanders say they met heavy resistance from Qadhafi loyalists in the town, about 170km southeast Tripoli.

It is reported that fighting continues in Qadhafi's hometown, Sirte. A pro-Qadhafi television station has confirmed reports that his son, Khamis, was indeed killed in late August.

Arrai television, located in Syria, reported that Khamis died during fighting with NTC troops in the city of Tarhouna, 90km southeast of Tripoli. It television also said that Qadhafi's intelligence chief, Mohammed Abdullah al-Sanussi was also killed during the battle.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has paid a brief visit to Tripoli, as part of a wider regional tour of North Africa. His main purpose was to re-open the British embassy and meet NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

Hague also announced a package of support including extra help for demining around the towns of Sirte and Bani Walid, where fighting continues. Hague has appointed Sir John Jenkins, formerly the special UK representative to Libya and based in Benghazi for the past few months, as ambassador.

The extent of NTC's advance in the town of Bani Walid remains unclear. It is reported that the fighters approached the town on Sunday 16th October from the north and south after launching a barrage of artillery fire against Qadhafi loyalists.

NTC commander Jamal Salem told AFP news agency: "We attacked this morning from the south-west. Our men were inside the town this afternoon. But there was heavy resistance."

It is estimated that some 1,500 Qadhafi loyalists are in Bani Walid.

Sources: BBC News, AFP, Reuters

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

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