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Gaddafi stronghold under fire

world Updated: Oct 17, 2011 01:25 IST
Libyan government

Libyan government fighters battled on Sunday to subdue pockets of resistance by pro-Gaddafi fighters whose refusal to abandon the ousted leader s hometown of Sirte is delaying Libya s move to democracy.

Ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) forces kept up their bombardment of a small area in the centre of Sirte but there was no push under way from ground troops.

NTC militia have besieged Sirte for weeks slowly boxing Gaddafi die-hards into an area about two square kilometres (a square mile). Green flags the symbol of Gaddafi's rule still fly over the area.

Some fighters expressed irritation with their commanders for failing to order and advance and poor communication between brigades.

“There are no orders coming in even though we have the power to push them out “ Hesham al-Dafani an NTC fighter told Reuters. “We don t know what s happening.”

The failure to seize Sirte -- and the other remaining Gaddafi holdout Bani Walid -- has delayed Libya s democratic transition.

The country s new rulers say the process will only begin once Sirte is captured.

Fighting also continued in Bani Walid on Sunday Reuters reporters said.

Some fighters in Sirte said they suspected that the failure to order an advance was a result of NTC leaders not yet being ready to set out a roadmap for national elections.

“We are civilians we not military people “ NTC field commander Mohammed al Sabty said. “We don t have a certain plan.”

Some political analysts say the long sieges of Sirte and Bani Walid risk undermining the NTC which and frustrate its effort to control the whole country.

The often chaotic struggle for Sirte has killed scores of people left thousands homeless and laid waste to much of what was once a showpiece Mediterranean city where Gaddafi enjoyed entertaining foreign leaders.

The dangers posed by the failure to capture Gaddafi were highlighted on Friday when fighting erupted in Tripoli between NTC forces and Gaddafi-loyalists for the first time since he fled the city in August.

Government forces set up more roadblocks across the city over the weekend but especially in and around Abu Salim an area of run-down apartment blocks where the clashes took place.