Libya conflict drags on in Bani Walid, Sirte

Forces of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) battled hard Saturday against fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the desert stronghold of Bani Walid and Gaddafi's birthplace Sirte, local media reported.

In Bani Walid, Gaddafi loyalists ambushed the NTC troops Saturday and forced them into a retreat after killing at least six NTC soldiers and wounding 20 others, said the reports, citing a military spokesman of the interim government.

In Sirte, the NTC forces also encountered stiff resistance and failed to capture the stronghold.

Commander Salem Jeha said the interim government had deployed at least 1,200 NTC armed vehicles and 6,000 fighters in downtown Sirte and its outskirts to mount another massive assault on the remnants of Gaddafi's forces quartered in the masses of buildings.

Also on Saturday, Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that the NATO aerial bombings of Sirte had claimed 2,000 lives over the past 17 days, including 354 deaths caused by the bombing attacks late Friday.

He said Gaddafi was still in Libya leading his troops to engage in a war that could last for months.

With enough arms, the pro-Gaddafi forces would not lose Bani Walid or Sirte, he added.

[Source: Xinhua, Tripoli, 17Sep11]

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