Gaddafi die-hards cornered – commander

2011-10-19 08:48

Sirte – Muammar Gaddafi’s remaining die-hards have been cornered into a small section of the ousted strongman’s hometown, Sirte, after a fierce battle that saw heavy casualties, a commander said today.

Essam Baghhar, field commander for the Zintan Brigade, told AFP that one of two neighbourhoods in the Mediterranean city that had still been under the control of Gaddafi loyalists fell to fighters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) late yesterday.

“The Dollar neighbourhood was liberated last night and now the fight is in Number Two neighbourhood,” Baghhar said.

He added that loyalist forces had been pushed into an area of Number Two neighbourhood less than one square kilometre in size.

“We have captured many snipers in the past two days, including two women snipers,” the commander said.

Medics said at least 11 NTC fighters were killed and 95 wounded in the battle to subdue the last pockets of resistance in Sirte yesterday alone.

Among those killed was Mustafa bin Dardef, a popular field commander with the Zintan Brigade, who was hit by a mortar round. A businessman in Benghazi before he joined the uprising, he leaves a son and four daughters.

Sirte, the very last bastion of Gaddafi support, is seen as strategic as the NTC has said it will not declare Libya fully freed of Gaddafi’s 42-year autocratic rule until his hometown falls.

In the desert oasis of Bani Walid, the red, black and green flag of the new government was raised after the only other remaining holdout was liberated on Monday.

Gaddafi was toppled in August when NTC fighters overran his headquarters in the capital Tripoli. He has since gone into hiding, with some NTC officials believing he could be in Sirte, making a last stand.

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