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Libyan forces launch attack on Gaddafi stronghold

The country’s transitional government has launched the attack on Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte, using tank and mortar fire.

Libyan revolutionary fighters take cover outside the city of Sirte yesterday
Libyan revolutionary fighters take cover outside the city of Sirte yesterday
Image: AP/PTI

THE HOMETOWN OF Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has been subjected to a sustained assault by forces loyal to the National Transitional Council.

Sirte is the most important of the pro-Gaddafi cities holding out against the NTC, with its defenders trading artillery, tank and mortar shelling with the rebel fighters.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head told the broadcaster that the attack is the biggest assault in days and that many buildings were on fire.

The BBC said that an NTC military commander described how three quarters of the city is in the hands of the NTC.

It comes as Gaddafi broke his two-week silence to call on Libyans to resist the country’s new leaders, asking them yesterday to “be courageous, rise up, go out in the streets”.

Thousands of people have left the city due to the violence, with many having set up camp outside of Sirte.

This has raised concerns about a possible humanitarian crisis.

The Red Cross made it to the city’s Ibn Sina hospital yesterday morning after being given safe passage by both sides, and evacuated three people with serious injuries.

It has also delivered hygiene kits, clean drinking water, nappies and baby milk into the city.

NATO ministers who met in Brussels yesterday said the bombing campaign in Libya will continue until armed resistance to the new pro-Western regime stops.

- Additional reporting by AP

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