Gaddafi hometown encircled, bombarded

2011-09-26 12:40

Sirte - Anti-Gaddafi fighters on Monday encircled the ousted leader's hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast from the east, south and west and Nato warplanes pounded the city for a third straight day.

The siege of one of Muammar Gaddafi’s last bastions comes as Libya's new rulers said they had unearthed a mass grave in Tripoli of 1 700 prisoners slain by his regime in a 1996 uprising, a massacre that helped trigger the revolt that ousted the despot.

As fighters loyal to the new leadership tightened the vice around Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte, civilians fleeing the city of some 70 000 spoke of rapidly deteriorating conditions for the remaining residents.

"The situation in the city is very critical," said Muftah Mohammed, a fish trader who was leaving in a convoy of seven vehicles with around 60 relatives and neighbours.

"There is no food, no water, no petrol and no electricity. This has been going on for nearly two months now as Gaddafi forces would not allow us to leave."

Mohammed said that African mercenaries deployed in the city centre and on rooftops had been preventing residents from leaving.

"They are from Chad. They used to threaten us if we tried to leave," he said.

"Children are in a particularly bad condition. There is no milk for them. We have all been surviving on just macaroni for several days."

Pro-Gaddafi radio in Sirte kept up a steady barrage of propaganda broadcasts in a bid to rally his remaining loyalists.

The "great guide"

"You must die for Gaddafi, you must die for country," the radio exhorted, playing a diet of songs extolling the "great guide", the ousted strongman's official title under the old regime.

Another Sirte resident who asked not to be identified was leaving the city with about 20 relatives.

"Nato has been bombing continuously. The children are scared. We had to leave. There was no option," he said.

The alliance said on Monday that its aircraft had hit a command and control node, three ammunition or vehicle storage facilities, a radar facility, a multiple rocket launcher, a military support vehicle and an artillery piece in Sirte.

The previous day, the alliance blew up 29 armed vehicles, a firing position, two command and control nodes and three ammunition storage facilities in the city.

On Monday morning, commanders reported no fighting on the western side on Sirte but on the eastern side an AFP correspondent heard exchanges in late morning after a convoy of some 150 NTC fighters backed by three artillery pieces entered the city.

The front line is now some 10km inside the sprawling coastal city from its eastern gate, Commander Ahmed Zlitni of the NTC operations centre told AFP on Sunday.

There have been repeated reports that one of Gaddafi’s sons - Mutassim - is holed up in Sirte's southern outskirts.

A resident who fled on Sunday told AFP that he had twice seen Mutassim in the past three weeks, once in a command centre set up in a hospital basement.

NTC forces believe that Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, is in the other major enclave still in the hands of loyalist forces, the desert city of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli.

Gruesome site

"We know exactly where he is," said Commander Omar Mukhtar, whose troops have been laying siege to Bani Walid for several weeks.

The NTC is keen to put Gaddafi and top members of his former regime on trial for what they say were widespread human rights abuses committed during his 42-year rule.

The gruesome find in a mass grave of the remains of prisoners executed at Tripoli's notorious Abu Salim jail was yet further proof of "criminal acts" by Gaddafi’s regime, said Khalid Sharif, spokesman for the NTC's military council.

"We found the place where all these martyrs were buried," Sharif announced on Sunday in Tripoli.

Salim al-Farjani, a member of the committee set up to identify the remains, appealed for international help.

"We call on foreign organisations and the international community to help us in this task of identifying the remains of more than 1 700 people," said Farjani.

The first demonstrations in Libya which finally ousted Gaddafi last month erupted in Benghazi in February, when families of Abu Salim victims called for protests against the arrest of their lawyer.

Farjani said he witnessed the gruesome site where the Abu Salim victims were found.

"We were invited to visit the place where the corpses of the prisoners at Abu Salim were found, where we saw scattered human bones," he said.

Farjani also referred to "egregious acts committed against dead bodies, on which acid was poured to eliminate any evidence of this massacre".

  • Ross - 2011-09-26 12:51

    @Spade. Julius is as quiet as a mouse lately one can only wonder why. Maybe he might go there for good.

      CHIPPER_CHAP - 2011-09-26 13:06

      He is a very busy man. Got a lot of tenders to go through :)

  • Nhlanhla - 2011-09-26 13:09

    This is unfair, NATO should have left a level playing field.

      Spade - 2011-09-26 13:11

      I think they're trying to level it as we speak...

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-26 13:53

      you mean with Gadaffi with all the tanks and planes and the rebels with whatever weapons they could scrounge up? Yes, that IS fair? Moron.

  • Galula - 2011-09-26 13:26

    Whatever stories are published on this site end up being either "Black" or "white"! We can do better than this guys!!!!!

      Spade - 2011-09-26 13:43

      I've checked, and didn't see any "black" or "white" comments. Yours is the first.

      Ntombi - 2011-09-26 14:16

      White farmers vs Julias = Black/white, dummy

  • Woofix - 2011-09-26 13:41

    At last the Nato fighting a/c arrived and do the job that was to be done weeks ago. But congrats it seemed they do a great job there. Hopefully missed the civilians. @ all other commenters that abuse the commentary colum for their childish, racist & unapropriate feeble efforts of commantary: PLEASE STICK TO THE CONTENT OF THE REPORT AND STOP MAKING A MOCKERY CIRCUS OF IT!!

  • L.A - 2011-09-26 14:49

    this is not about Julius!good people don't let your racist ideas contaminate your brilliant ideas to destroy your next generation. Viva La Revolucion!

  • Kwena Mogopa - 2011-09-26 15:29

    Media propaganda failing in Libya.for weeks they have been tell a lie after a lie.Truth is NTC in no capable of controlloingt the country.These people who are said to be fleeing these towns a lieing.If there was no water,food and petrol,why are the pro-Gadaffi forces still strong and holding on?Dead prisoners are of no interest to Libya's freedom!I still respect Gadaffi and believe the AU should cease to exist,they have failed all of us.I think we don't need their input anymore.They are lackeys!

      mike881 - 2011-09-26 15:58

      Kwena try watching Al Jazeera for an honest account of what has happened and is happening in Libya. You will then quickly change your support for gaddafi - he was and still is a monster who massacred his own people in a vain effort to remain in power!

      MobBim - 2011-09-26 16:43

      Kwena you are 100% correct there is no fairness... if Nato have the best interest of about Libya then Civilian must be priority because now it seems as They care less about the innocent lifes dying every day especially children... but news24 will never say Nato Killed more 20 people in Libya while trying to strong man (Qaddafi).. actually media is controlled by western in order to cover their evil intensions....

      MobBim - 2011-09-26 16:48

      if Nato have the best interest of about Libya then Civilian must be priority because now it seems as They care less about the innocent lifes dying every day especially children... but news24 will never say Nato Kwena you are 100% correct there is no fairness... if Nato have the best interest of about Libya then Civilian must be priority because now it seems as They care less about the innocent lifes dying every day especially children... but news24 will never say Nato Killed more 20000 Civilians in Libya while trying to remove strong man (Qaddafi).. actually media is controlled by western in order to cover their evil intensions....

      slg - 2011-09-27 21:41

      Mobim, what would you propose if it was the Apartheid government governing Libya, denying Libyans the right to vote, in control of the military, and oppressing them?

  • marco - 2011-09-26 17:02

    So far the NTC,who are still based in the eastern city of Benghazi by the way,has faced serious questions about whether it can unify Libya,a country divided on tribal lines.That long-promised attempt of an inclusive interim government fell apart overnight.The NTC forces were unable to approach the northern gate of Bani Walid,150 km(95 miles)southeast of Tripoli,because of heavy gunfire from Gaddafi loyalists.Other reports says it's because of tensions between units drawn from Bani Walid itself and those from other parts of the country.Some NTC fighters openly disobey orders from their bosses. How much credibility does the NTC have in and outside of Lbya?There are many scenarios here still to play out,but with Gaddafi gone from power it seems most of these are positive IE pumping oil out-and the NTC appears hellbent on breaking the impasse by moving forward hastily in setting out their new government. A bit of a joke this NTC is.Here's why:"There's no electricity,no phone services.Nothing,"one resident Ibrahim Ramadan said standing by a car packed with his family at a checkpoint.Residents said homes had been destroyed and cars smashed to pieces as disorder spread through the city."People are fed up. There are explosions going off everywhere and you don't know where the bullets will come from next," said Abubakr, a resident making his way out of the city."Look at this," he said,pointing to a bullet hole in his windshield.

  • marco - 2011-09-26 17:04

    "Bullets are coming down from above.People are just firing randomly from everywhere." The political infighting in Libyan politics reveals some of the fractures in an alliance that was united in civil war by hatred of Gaddafi but remains split among pro-Western liberals,underground Islamist guerrillas and defectors from Gaddafi's government. The NTC has its roots in Libya's east,but most of the militiamen who finally succeeded in driving Gaddafi out of Tripoli are from towns in the west.Still many Libyans say they can tolerate confusion among the new rulers as the price of getting rid of Gaddafi,who have crushed all opposition during four decades of rule.

  • pages:
  • 1