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Libya's fighting continues in Surt, renews in Tripoli

Revolutionary forces pursue the last pro-Kadafi fighters in Surt, and reports say the former leader's loyalists mount a small uprising in the capital.

October 15, 2011|By Ruth Sherlock, Los Angeles Times
  • Fighters for Libya's transitional government engage combatants loyal to Moammar Kadafi in the ousted leader's hometown of Surt.
Fighters for Libya's transitional government engage combatants… (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Surt, Libya — Forces of Libya's transitional government pounded holdout positions of Moammar Kadafi loyalists in the ousted leader's hometown of Surt on Friday, and fighting flared up in the capital for the first time in nearly two months.

In the coastal city of Surt, the attackers said the last remaining pro-Kadafi troops were trapped in a few neighborhoods and that it was just a matter of time before they were overwhelmed.

The fight for Surt has dragged on for almost a month after the government that ended Kadafi's reign predicted it would be over in a few days.

Loyalist snipers and others ensconced in buildings and other hiding places have proved to be dogged and resilient fighters, and many apparently have no intention of surrendering even though they are outmanned and outgunned.

Revolutionaries have used tanks and rocket fire to push deep into the city, leaving much of Surt, once a city of 100,000, in ruins. There have been no estimates of the number of fighters and civilians killed there.

The nation's ruling Transitional National Council says it will declare Libya liberated once Surt is under its control. The declaration of liberation is expected to trigger a timetable for national elections sometime next year.

In Tripoli, the capital, Kadafi loyalists reportedly raised a green flag, symbol of the toppled government, and took up sniper positions in the Abu Salim neighborhood, which had long been a stronghold of the former leader. Gunfire echoed through the streets, news reports said.

Witnesses said that as many as 50 loyalist gunmen had appeared on the streets, chanting slogans praising Kadafi, Reuters reported, and that the transitional government sent hundreds of troops racing to the scene in pickup trucks.

Government officials downplayed the incident. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Still, it appeared to be the most significant pro-Kadafi mobilization in the capital since it fell to the rebels in August, sending Kadafi and his entourage on the run and ending his 42-year reign. From hiding, Kadafi has urged his loyalists to carry on a guerrilla war.

Tripoli has been relatively calm since Kadafi's fall. Security has largely been in the hands of roaming militiamen who had previously fought as rebels against Kadafi's government.

Sherlock is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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