Bani Walid mostly controlled by NTC forces, fighting continues in Sirte

Libya’s NTC troops are claiming to have control of the majority of Gadhafi stronghold Bani Walid, where loyalists to deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi have been holed up and mounting a spirited resistance since late August.

Some reports say fighting has eased in the coastal region of Sirte, Gadhafi’s final coastal stronghold; however, resistance by Gadhafi loyalists has not stopped.

Interim government forces launched mortars and shells at a pocket of resistance in the town of Sirte Monday, amid violent fighting by a small but tenacious band of troops of Muammar Gadhafi.

Colonel Abdullah Naker, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council, has said that Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) loyalists were making progress in finishing off resistance from Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte, but he is concerned that Gadhafi’s son, a leader of the resistance there, might find a way to escape the region.

To the south, NTC forces have been hunting the remaining Gadhafi soldiers in Bani Walid Gadhafi troops who remain in Bani Walid.

Naker told journalists that NTC forces have taken the heart of Bani Walid, in which they raised the flag of the new interim government.

About 60 percent of Bani Walid is now said to be under the command of NTC troops. Interim government forces claim to control 85 percent of Bani Walid. Gains by the NTC, however, may not be long-lived.

Reports suggest the Warfalla tribe, the biggest in Libya, is trying to negotiate with the interim government for the surrender of Bani Walid.

The Warfalla tribe, which includes Gadhafi’s wife, is hoping to make a deal with Libya’s next rulers.

A Syrian media source, Arrai television, confirmed the death of Muammar Gadhafi’s son Khamis. Khamis was killed on August 29 during a battle southeast of the capital Tripoli, in the city of Tarhouma. Gadhafi’s intelligence head, a cousin of Khamis, Mohammed Abdullah al-Senousi, was also killed in the battle with forces of the National Transitional Council.

The channel al-Rai station in Syria broadcasted a poor-fidelity audio speech released by Gadhafi during which the deposed ruler asked Libyans to “be brave and rise up.”

Omar Ashour, who teaches political science at Britain’s University of Exeter, says the new interim rulers have a weak national army and that most of the nation is controlled by hundreds of minor militias. “The problem with it is that it’s not the only armed force in Libya right now and it has very limited influence on possibly 100 or so armed militias. In Tripoli, you have a militia controlling part of the north, another militia controlling part of the south, a third militia controlling the airport, and obviously this makes things very decentralized and at some points chaotic,” he said.

Libya’s new rulers have said they plan to begin the political process of instituting a democratic government after they have captured Sirte. However, some worry how armed groups could interfere with the political process.

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