Gaddafi hometown encircled, bombarded

2011-09-26 12:40
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Libya war continues

Libyan revolutionary fighters continue to battle ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi's and his loyalists.

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".

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    ntc  |  nato  |  muammar gaddafi  |  saif gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  libya protests publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Boks to floor USA by 38 - bookies
Debate over Lancaster rages on
US Eagles ready to take off
Samoan duo in hot water
Traffic Alerts

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Listen to your body and your emotional reactions. Know when to slow down or stop. It is more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.