Saturday, September 24, 2011

Libya NTC faces credibility test at Gaddafi strongholds

Libya’s new government said it had tightened its grip on oasis towns which sided with Muammar Gaddafi, but faced a tough fight to take two remaining strongholds loyal to the ousted leader and bolster its credibility.
Forces of the National Transitional Council said they controlled a string of desert towns in Libya’s deep south, although they said Gaddafi loyalists were still holding out in pockets of at least one oasis.

So far they have failed to take the two much larger loyalist strongholds far to the north, Bani Walid and Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, in a series of chaotic offensives which have raised questions about the NTC’s ability to control the country.

A fighter for Libya’s interim government helping desperate residents flee Muammar Gaddafi ‘s hometown was killed on Friday and a packed family car was destroyed when pro-Gaddafi  forces fired on their convoy, a local commander said.

One month to the day since Gaddafi ‘s compound fell to rebels in Tripoli, the campaign to take Sirte and the fugitive ex-Libyan leader’s other remaining bastion of Bani Walid was on hold for another day.
Asked why National Transitional Council fighters were delaying a final assault on Sirte, commander Osama Muttawa Swehly said ‘we’re trying to get the families out.

‘We are averaging between 400 to 500 cars a day. We are basically trying to starve the Gaddafi  forces)out.’

He said reports from inside the city are that there is no electricity, the water is cut off, shops are closed and people are running out of food.

‘We are giving the families every chance to get out. Once that stream turns into a trickle then stops, then it will be time to act. We don’t want victory at any cost.’

One resident, Malik Mohammed Ferjani, left with about 40 relatives in a seven-car convoy on Friday, saying he was on a Gaddafi  hit list.

‘People are being executed by Gaddafi  soldiers,’ Ferjani said. ‘Gaddafi  soldiers have a list of 500 names; my name is on that list.’

The family decided to flee ‘after they fired three rockets at my house this morning,’ he said.
He was speaking at a field hospital 50 kilometres west of Sirte, where NTC officials were searching cars coming from the city before allowing them to proceed.

The officials said that, by midday, 385 people had come through.

When rebel fighters stormed and captured Gaddafi ‘s Bab al-Aziziya headquarters on August 23, they found no trace of the strongman, who has since made several broadcasts claiming he is still in Libya.

While the country’s new authorities do not know where he is, they are focused on taking the coastal city of Sirte and the desert redoubt of Bani Walid, two places where some think he might be.

Following fierce resistance by defenders, Gaddafi  spokesman Mussa Ibrahim called on Friday for continued resolve against ‘agents and traitors.’

Speaking on Damascus-based Arrai television from an unknown location, he also denounced what he called ‘genocide’ by NATO and its ‘Libyan agents’ and criticised the world community for ‘inaction.’

News source: The daily new age

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