Sirte ( Libya)

National Transitional Council forces on Saturday swept further into Sirte, a remaining stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi, before retreating under heavy artillery fire after two hours of clashes, AFP reports.

The fi

ghting focused on a roundabout at September 1 Street, the towns main artery into the south from the southeast.

” The situation at the roundabout is pitiful. There is no central command, we are retreating to regroup and re- enter again from three fronts,” said Al- Dhahira Brigade commander Saleb Abu Shaala. Gaddafi forces in Sirte, the ousted leaders hometown, have put up stubborn resistance against at least 6,000 former rebel fighters how massed in and around the town.

Abu Shaala said the clashes erupted at about 10: 30 am ( 0830 GMT) and that Gaddafis forces used heavy artillery and rockets against them. ” We hit back with Grad rockets,” he said.

Abdel Nasser al- Sheikh, of the Misrata Military Council, charged that Gaddafi troops ” are firing from the Bin Hamal mosque. We cannot attack this place.” On the outskirts of Sirte, a medic with his face blown open was one of two people who had been killed and brought in from the front lines. ” He was a civilian working in the ambulances,” Dr Marwan al- Mubarak told AFP, adding that the second man was killed by a sniper bullet to the heart.

Colleagues of the ambulanceman broke into tears as his body was brought in, and repeatedly shouted ” Allahu akbar” (” God is greatest”) as they continued to treat other casualties, most of them seriously wounded, an AFP reporter said.

One man had his chest and arm punctured by rocket shrapnel, while another had been shot in the neck and one in the hand. A fourth wounded man with bloodied legs also arrived after being evacuated in a police car from fighting at the roundabout. ommander Salem Jeha, a member of Misrata Military Council, told AFP earlier by telephone: ” We are now concentrated in a handful of buildings in the city and on the outskirts including Wadi Abu Hadi where Gaddafis forces are concentrated.” Sirte airport came under complete NTC control late on Friday night, he said.

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