Libya’s Provisional Fighters Liberating Sirte

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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Libya's revolutionary fighters appear to have gained control of former leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte — a move that provisional government officials have said would allow them to declare the country liberated.

Military leaders say National Transitional Government fighters made a final advance into the coastal town Thursday, following a short confrontation with Gadhafi loyalists.

News reports say fighters are chasing loyalists, who are trying to flee the town. Al-Jazeera television has shown fighters in the town firing celebratory shots into the air.

NTC fighters had engaged in intense gunbattles with well-armed loyalists in Sirte for more than three weeks.

Meanwhile, there is no word on Mr. Gadhafi's whereabouts.

On Wednesday, acting Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril was quoted by the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper as saying Mr. Gadhafi was moving between Niger, Algeria and Libya's vast southern desert.

Mr. Jibril said the ousted leader has been trying to recruit fighters from Sudan to help him establish a separate state in the south, or to march north to destabilize the new government. He said Mr. Gadhafi is seeking to return to power by exploiting the political divisions among revolutionary forces. The report could not be confirmed.

On a visit to Libya Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed concerns about Mr. Gadhafi, saying she hoped he would be captured or killed.

During her trip, Clinton pledged millions of dollars in new aid for educational programs and medical care for wounded fighters. She also said more money will go toward securing stockpiles of weapons from Mr. Gadhafi's rule and destroying chemical weapon stocks.

U.S. officials say American aid to Libya since the conflict began totals $135 million.