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Gaddafi strongholds fall but battles continue for Sirte and Bani Walid

Meanwhile, the US ambassador is back in Tripoli as the US reopens its diplomatic offices there.

Libyan fighters fire canons toward pro-Gaddafi forces from the western outskirts of Sirte yesterday.
Libyan fighters fire canons toward pro-Gaddafi forces from the western outskirts of Sirte yesterday.
Image: Gaia Anderson/AP/Press Association Images

LIBYAN FIGHTERS ARE continuing to fight for control of some of the last remaining pro-Muammar Gaddafi strongholds in the country having suffered setbacks in the past week.

Al Jazeera reports that fighters are waiting for civilians to escape from Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte before launching their final advance. Rebels have made several attempts to take both Sirte and Bani Walid in recent weeks but they have ended in disarray and panicked retreat.

Fighters loyal to Libya’s fledgling National Transitional Council (NTC) have met resistance at Khamseen, 50 kilometres east of Sirte whilst in Bani Walid, 56 kilometres south of of Tripoli, they were preparing for an assault as of yesterday.

It has been nearly a month since the fall of Tripoli and the apparent fall of the Gaddafi regime but there have been pockets of resistance which have so far failed to surrender to the NTC.

The council claims that they have almost overrun the southern city of Sabha and Jufra - about 700 kilometres southeast of Tripoli – has fallen to the NTC fighters, Reuters reports.

Fighters also claim they have found stockpiles of chemical weapons which Gaddafi was supposed to have destroyed in early 2004 as part of an agreement with Western powers.

The Telegraph reports that the ongoing battles for Sirte and Bani Walid have overshadowed the liberation of Tripoli a month ago with the NTC’s chief executive and de-facto prime minister of Libya Mahmoud Jibril facing questions about his position.

He failed to win backing for his proposed new cabinet on Monday, the announcement of which was due on Sunday but this has now been delayed indefinitely amid plummeting support for him, according the paper.

Meanwhile, AP reports that the US ambassador to Libya has returned to Tripoli to lead a newly reopened American Embassy in a post-Gaddafi era.

Ambassador Gene Cretz arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday with plans today to raise the US flag over the embassy building in the Libyan capital.

His return comes eight months after he left for consultations in Washington in January after WikiLeaks posted his opinions of Gaddafi’s personal life and habits in a classified 2009 diplomatic cable.

At the time, the Obama administration was considering replacing him due in part to strains in ties caused by the blunt assessment.

- additional reporting from AP

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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