Libyas revolutionary forces on Sunday seized a convention centre that had served as a key base for fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the fugitive leaders hometown,as they squeezed remaining regime loyalists in the besieged coastal city.
The inability to take Sirte,the most important remaining stronghold of Gadhafi supporters,has stalled efforts by Libyas new leaders to set a timeline for elections and move forward with a transition to democracy. Taking Sirte would bring them a big step closer to establishing control of the entire,sprawling North African country,but pro-Gaddafi snipers have slowed their advance.
Now,Libyan transitional government forces said they had captured landmark buildings in a thrust towards the centre of Sirte,but were holding off an assault on its main square to allow civilians to escape the fighting.
We have made good progress, said Mahmoud Bayu,commander of the Shohada Al-Manatair brigade. We have entered the Ouagadougou (conference) centre,there is some fighting going on,but its under our control.
National Transitional Council (NTC) forces also wrested control of the main hospital,a witness said,capturing more than a dozen pro-Gaddafi fighters who had used the complex to fire mortars and grenades.
Gaddafi supporters still hold the inland enclave of Bani Walid where,too,revolutionary forces reported key gains after weeks of faltering advances. Bani Walid is believed to be harbouring high-level figures in the old regime.
The transitional leadership has said it will declare liberation after Sirtes capture because that will mean it holds all seaports and harbours in the oil-rich Mediterranean coastal country.
Libyas de facto leader,Mustafa Abdul-Jalil,head of the governing NTC,said that anti-Gaddafi fighters have made huge gains in Sirte and Bani Walid,southeast of the capital. I do believe,God willing,that the liberation of these cities will happen within this week, Abdul-Jalil said in Tripoli. The takeover of Bani Walid is imminent, he said.
He claimed Gaddafis son Seif al-Islam was seen on Saturday in Bani Walid. We are 100 per cent sure that he is inside,at least until last night, Kenshil said.