Head of Libya's NTC visits battle-torn Sirte

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 11, 2011 1:05 PM

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - The chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) made a highly symbolic visit to the city of Sirte on Tuesday where government forces are trying to crush the last pockets of resistance from supporters of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.

A Reuters reporter in the city, which is Gaddafi's hometown, said Mustafa Abdel Jalil was standing on the back of a truck, and that NTC fighters were shouting "Martyrs, Martyrs, for you Libya!" and firing their weapons into the air in celebration.

Abdel Jalil addressed a few hundred fighters outside the heavily damaged Ouagadougou conference hall, where Gaddafi used to host international summits and which lies about 1.6 km (a miles) from the front line.

"All the victories are thanks to you, my revolutionary brothers," Abdel Jalil told the jubilant fighters, some of whom pushed and shoved to try to get close to him. "You have the support of all the members of the transitional council."

Taking Sirte would bring Libya's new rulers a big step closer to establishing control of the whole country almost two months after they seized the capital Tripoli. The NTC has said it would start a process to rebuild Libya as a democracy once Sirte is captured.

Asked by Reuters TV whether Sirte was captured, Abdel Jalil said: "No. We need two more days."

Abdel Jalil called on the NTC fighters not to harm residents of the city, even if they suspect they are loyal to Gaddafi.

The prolonged battle for Gaddafi's hometown, has raised concern for civilians trapped inside the city of about 75,000 people.

(Reporting By Tim Gaynor; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Rosalind Russell)