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Libyan Council Forces Battle Qaddafi Loyalists Inside Sirte

Libyan Council Forces Battle Qaddafi Loyalists Inside Sirte
National Transitional Council fighters watch smoke rise from the town of Sirte. Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Supporters of Muammar Qaddafi in Sirte battled Libyan forces seeking control over the former leader’s hometown as a critical security measure before forming a new government.

Thousands of fighters gathered today for what they said may be a final attack on the coastal city of Sirte. Their aim is to push the loyalists toward the Mediterranean Sea or persuade them to give up, the BBC said.

Ten fighters died in the latest clashes and dozens were injured, according to Al Jazeera television.

The armed forces of Libya’s new rulers have been trying to capture Sirte since talks on its surrender broke down about a month ago. The National Transitional Council, which took control of the country in late August when Qaddafi lost Tripoli, the capital, has said for the past two weeks that the city was close to falling and that loyalists were determined to hold their positions because one of Qaddafi’s sons, Mutassim, is there.

‘No Revenge’

The United Nations special representative in Libya, Ian Martin, appealed to all Libyans to respect the calls made by the NTC “that there should be no revenge even against those responsible for war crimes and other grave violations.”

Those individuals “should be detained and brought to justice by due process of law,” he said, according to an e-mailed statement today.

“This will lay the foundation for national reconciliation and the future unity of the people of Libya,” he said.

The fall of Sirte is a key step in Libya’s transition to democracy. A new government to see the North African nation through to elections will be only announced a month after the transitional council’s forces take full control of the city, Mahmoud Jibril, the acting prime minister, said on Oct. 3.

The NTC says its fighters have already captured Sirte’s seaport and airport, and are proceeding slowly with the operation to minimize civilian casualties. During a lull in fighting last week, thousands of people fled the city, where aid agencies say the humanitarian situation is worsening.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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