Libya’s Anti-Gadhafi Forces Storm Bani Walid

Posted September 16th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Forces for Libya's interim government are storming into the desert town Bani Walid, expanding their multi-pronged offensive against Moammar Gadhafi's remaining strongholds.

Witnesses at the scene say explosions and gunfire echoed throughout the area Friday, as fighters for the National Transitional Council met strong resistance from Gadhafi loyalists.

The charge into Bani Walid comes a day after several thousand fighters with the revolutionary forces advanced into the center of Mr. Gadhafi's hometown Sirte.

NTC military officials said they faced heavy resistance from elite loyalist troops and snipers, and media reports said the fighting was still going on Friday.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan arrived in the Libyan capital Tripoli Friday as part of his Arab world tour and to show support for the country's fledgling new government. One of the NTC's top officials, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, greeted the leader at the airport.

On Thursday, jubilant crowds welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The two leaders said they would introduce a United Nations Security Council draft resolution Friday that would establish a U.N. mission in Libya, unfreeze Libyan assets, remove the no-fly zone for civilian flights and abolish the international arms embargo.

They also said they would assist Libya's new government to extend its authority throughout the country and track down Mr. Gadhafi and members of his inner circle.

In addition, they promised that the NATO military campaign would continue for as long as it is needed.

In Tripoli, Mr. Cameron called on the fugitive leader and his followers to “give up.” Mr. Sarkozy added that he would urge authorities in neighboring Niger, a former French colony, to detain Mr. Gadhafi's associates who entered the country in recent days.

The visiting leaders held talks in Tripoli with National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who said the NTC will reward key allies for their help in ending Mr. Gadhafi's rule as it decides future oil and gas contracts.

Britain and France pushed for NATO action to protect civilians against forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi, and the French were the first to recognize the NTC as the official representative of the Libyan people.