Libya fighters move on last Gaddafi bastions

NORTH OF BANI WALID/EAST OF SIRTE, Libya, (Reuters)  – Libyan fighters launched assaults on the final bastions of  Muammar Gaddafi loyalists yesterday, with battles reported  inside the holdout town of Bani Walid and near the ousted  ruler’s home town of Sirte.
The battles erupted a day before a deadline set by Libya’s  interim National Transitional Council (NTC) for pro-Gaddafi  outposts to surrender or face onslaughts.

NTC officials said the outbreaks of fighting meant the  ceasefire had effectively been scrapped. That could pave the way  for some of the final battles of a six-month civil war.

As the conflict entered its final stages, diplomats said  Britain plans to submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security  Council early next week to start easing sanctions against Libya  and establish a modest U.N. mission in the country.

Fighters besieging Bani Walid went in a day ahead of the  deadline to protect civilians and were locked in  street-to-street fighting with Gaddafi forces, an NTC official  near the town said.

Battles also began outside Sirte in response to barrages of  rockets fired by pro-Gaddafi forces.
The two towns, along with the remote desert outpost of  Sabha, are the main areas still in control of Gaddafi loyalists  since NTC fighters overran his Tripoli headquarters last month.  The NTC said it had also dispatched hundreds of fighters deep  into the desert, headed towards Sabha where it was advancing.

NTC official Abdallah Kanshil said fighters had entered Bani  Walid from the north, east and south and had advanced as close  as 2 km (1.5 miles) from a market in the centre.

Anti-Gaddafi forces believe some of Gaddafi’s sons, and  possibly even the fallen leader himself, are holed up in the  town, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli.

NTC spokesman Ahmed Bani said battles also had erupted close  to a river near Sirte after pro-Gaddafi forces fired rockets at  NTC forces laying siege to it. The coastal city was just a  village when Gaddafi was born there 69 years ago, but has grown  into a power base, lavished with cash under his rule.

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