Rebels close in on Gaddafi's stronghold | world | Hindustan Times
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Rebels close in on Gaddafi's stronghold

Libyan forces closed in on Muammar Gaddafi's hometown on Sunday, saying they would seize it by force if negotiations for its surrender failed.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2011 00:24 IST

Libyan forces closed in on Muammar Gaddafi's hometown on Sunday, saying they would seize it by force if negotiations for its surrender failed.

Libya's new rulers, trying to establish control over all the country, set their sights on the coastal city of Sirte - Gaddafi's birthplace - and two other towns controlled by his supporters, Sabha in the southwest and Jufrah in the southeast.

One commander said his forces were within 100km of Sirte from the east and others were advancing from the west.

"We will continue negotiations as long as necessary. However, the liberation of these cities will take place sooner or later," said the military spokesman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In Tripoli, the stench of rotting bodies and burning garbage still hung over the city, overrun by anti-Gaddafi forces last week. Many corpses have turned up, some of slain Gaddafi soldiers, others the victims of killings in cold blood.

A Libyan official said 75 bodies had been found at the Abu Salim hospital, which was caught up in heavy fighting, and another 35 corpses were found at the Yurmuk hospital.

The NTC and the Western powers that backed rebel forces with a five-month bombing campaign are acutely aware of the need to prevent Libya collapsing into the kind of chaos that plagued Iraq for years after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

The NTC, whose leaders plan to move to Tripoli from Benghazi this week, is trying to impose security, restore basic services and revive the oil- and gas-based economy.

Shortages
In Tripoli, residents queued for bread or scoured grocery shops for food. "This is a tax we pay for our freedom," said a lawyer waiting to buy food.

Aymen Mohammed poured water into plastic containers for his neighbours.

With Libyan television off the air, the NTC has begun using mobile phone text messages to reach the public. One issued on Sunday urged electricity workers to get back to work.