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Fighters attack Gaddafi's hometown

Hundreds of Libyan revolutionary fighters backed by rockets and heavy artillery have pushed into Muammar Gaddafi's hometown from the west in the first significant assault in about a week.

Explosions rocked Sirte and plumes of smoke rose into the sky as Gaddafi's forces returned fire with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Ambulances sped from the direction of the fighting, and a doctor said at least one fighter was killed and 25 others were injured in the battle.

The fighters occupied a key roundabout called Zafaran west of the central area and said their goal was to occupy two neighbourhoods on the western side of the city.

The two sides have been locked in a stand-off since former rebels tried to advance on the city a week ago but were repelled by fierce resistance.

Sirte, 250 miles south-east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, is one of three Gaddafi strongholds that refused to surrender after revolutionary forces seized control of Tripoli late last month after a civil war against his 42-year rule.

Revolutionary fighters tried to push into the city last weekend but were driven back by fierce rocket and gunfire, with at least 25 rebels killed and dozens wounded.

They pulled back to re-group and let civilians leave the area, although the two sides exchanged fire daily.

A commander of one of the brigades fighting for Sirte, Mohammed al-Sugatri, said foot soldiers had gone past the roundabout and were heading toward the central area. He said Gaddafi's forces and snipers were also attacking from buildings on the outskirts of the city.

Meanwhile, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council has said an interim government will be announced in the coming week.


From Belfast Telegraph