Libya’s Anti-Gadhafi Forces Storm Bani Walid, Sirte

Posted September 16th, 2011 at 11:51 am (UTC-5)
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Forces of Libya's interim government are fighting their way through former leader Moammar Gadhafi's remaining strongholds as more world leaders express support for the country's interim government.

Transitional government forces stormed the desert town of Bani Walid and faced fierce resistance from Gadhafi loyalists in the former leader's hometown, Sirte. Witnesses said NATO planes flew over Sirte as rapid gunfire and the explosion of heavy rockets filled the coastal Mediterranean town with smoke. Reports from Bani Walid tell of heavy gunfire there as well.

Friday's battles marked an expansion of the National Transitional Council's offensive against the few remaining pro-Gadhafi strongholds.

As revolutionary forces made strides, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the most recent world leader to offer his support to the Libya's fledgling new government with a visit to the country.

Jubilant Libyans and a NTC leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, welcomed Mr. Erdogan. He told the cheering crowds they are inspiration to others living in oppressive regimes. The Turkish leader is on the final leg of a tour of Arab capitals.

The White House announced Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama will show his support for the NTC by meeting with Jalil next week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. A White House spokesman said the two will discuss the NTC's plans for a post-Gadhafi transition.

On Thursday, crowds in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi gave a jubilant welcome to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The European visitors said they would introduce a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council Friday to establish a U.N. mission in Libya and remove an international “freeze” on Libyan assets.

The resolution also would abolish the international arms embargo against Libya and lift a “no-fly zone” on civilian air travel in the Mediterranean nation.

Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy said they will help Libya's new government track down Mr. Gadhafi and extend its authority throughout the country, and they promised NATO's military support for Libya will continue as long as it is needed.

Mr. Cameron called on the fugitive leader and his followers to surrender, and Mr. Sarkozy said he would urge authorities in neighboring Niger, a former French colony, to detain Gadhafi associates who have recently entered the country.