Libyan National Transitional Council fighters have captured the last positions held by Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalists in the deposed leader’s hometown of Sirte.
“Sirte has been liberated. There are no Gaddafi forces any more,” Colonel Yunus Al Abdali, head of operations in the
eastern half of the city, said on Thursday.
“We are now chasing his fighters who are trying to run away.”
Another frontline commander confirmed the capture of the Mediterranean coastal city, which was the last remaining
significant bastion of pro-Gaddafi fighters almost three months after the former leader was overthrown by NTC forces.
The AP news agency reported that the final push to capture the final parts of the city began around 0800 local time and was over after about 90 minutes.
Fighters on the ground did not allow reporters to enter the positions formerly held by the Gaddafi loyalists as they said mopping up operations were still under way.
Reuters reported the sound of shooting could be heard coming from the west of the city.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Tripoli, said a convoy of 100 cars is heading West to Misrata from Sirte.
“It is yet not clear who is in the convoy but some of the fighters say high levels of Gaddafi regime are part of it,” he said.
Events are rapidly unfolding and Al Jazeera sources are saying that Gaddafi might have been killed.
At least 16 pro-Gaddafi fighters were captured, along with multiple cases of ammunition and trucks loaded with weapons. They were beaten up and later taken away in the back of trucks.
Hundreds of NTC troops have been surrounding Gaddafi’s last bastion in a deadly struggle that exacted a heavy toll on human lives.
NTC fighters said there were a large number of corpses inside the battle zones, but it was not immediately possible to verify the claim.
Celebratory gunfire were heard in the heart of the city, which fell into the hands of Libya’s new rulers almost two full months after Tripoli was captured. Gunfire and car horns were blaring in Tripoli as celebrations started across the country.
Despite the fall of Tripoli on August 21, Gaddafi loyalists have been putting up a fierce fight in several areas, including Sirte, preventing Libya’s new leaders from declaring full victory in the eight-month conflict.
Gaddafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians, has been hiding since he was toppled.
Earlier this week, fighters gained control of another stronghold, Bani Walid, and by Tuesday said they had squeezed Gaddafi’s forces in Sirte into a residential area of about 700 square metres.