NTC forces control 90% of Sirte, a field commander says
Seven NTC fighters were killed in clashes with Gadhafi loyalists, he says
NATO: Sirte and Bin Walid are the two areas with pro-Gadhafi sentiment
Forces loyal to the new Libyan government were staging a final advance into the last area in Sirte still controlled by pro-Moammar Gadhafi fighters.
National Transitional Council field commander Ibrahim Ashour said Wednesday that his forces control 90% of the city, but are encountering stiff resistance in securing the rest of it.
On Tuesday, seven NTC fighters were killed and 15 wounded in clashes with Gadhafi loyalists there, Ashour said.
Fighting has raged for days in Sirte, east of the capital, Tripoli, on the Mediterranean coast. It is Gadhafi’s hometown and the last city with a seaport under the former Libyan leader’s control.
The other area with signifiant pro-Gadhafi sentiment is Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, a NATO spokesman said Tuesday.
Col. Roland Lavoie, spokesman for NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, said there’s no “evidence of significant pro-Gadhafi presence or activity” in the rest of Libya.
Asked about a news report saying NATO was surprised by the tenacious pro-Gadhafi resistance, Lavoie said, “The posture of pro-Gadhafi forces at this stage just does not make sense.
“It is clear that they could not change or influence the outcome of this conflict, and they have refused opportunities to be part of a political solution, and basically they have opted to choose to inflict pain to the rest of the population in Libya. So from that perspective it just does not make sense to see what these few remaining forces are doing, and this could certainly be qualified as surprising, both from a military and a from political point of view.”
In a sign of stability in the rest of the country, Tripoli International Airport has been officially reopened, Minister of Transport and Communication Anwar El Feituri announced on Tuesday.
CNN’s Dan Rivers and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report