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FACTDROP: Libya: Fighting breaks out on the streets of Tripoli as battle continues to rage for control of Sirte
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10/14/2011

Libya: Fighting breaks out on the streets of Tripoli as battle continues to rage for control of Sirte

Heavy fighting has continued in Sirte

Πηγή: The Telegraph
By Ben Farmer, Sirte and Damien McElroy
Oct 14 2011

Fighting broke out on the streets of Tripoli for the first time in more than a month, as revolutionaries clashed with gunmen chanting in support of Col Muammar Gaddafi.


Rebel fighters converged on the southern neighbourhood of Abu Salim after armed men tried to hold a protest in favour of the ousted dictator and raise his green flag.

The clash was the first sign of armed resistance to the National Transitional Council in Tripoli since it was overrun by anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries in late August causing the deposed leader and his family to flee.

It will heighten concern among Libya's new interim government that pockets of support for Col Gaddafi remain after the eight month-long uprising.

Fighters pursued the protestors, prompting street battles, though there was no report of casualties.

Col Gaddafi has urged his supporters to take to the streets in audio messages released since his escape, but his calls have so far gone unheeded.

Ahmad al-Warsly, a fighter with the Zintan brigade, said: "It seems like it was organised.

"They were planning to have a big demonstration, then the fight started." Tripoli's streets have been relatively calm since late August except for celebratory fire.

The clashes happened as heavy fighting continued in Sirte a week after revolutionary brigades had pushed into the city in a final assault.

Forces loyal to the National Transitional Council were again held at bay by a pocket of loyalists in the north western district two of the city.

Tanks and rocket launchers were brought forward to again bombard the buildings where marksmen had prevented the advance from three and four-storey blocks near the coast.

Frustration among the rebel fighters was increased by chaotic organisation which saw a string of confused and bloody friendly fire incidents.

A westward push through residential blocks on Thursday evening had foundered when three fighters from Benghazi had been shot dead by comrades firing from a different direction.

On Friday afternoon a corner where men had grouped to watch the bombardment was hit by two explosions thought to be caused by mortar bombs or rocket-propelled grenades from their own side.

At least a dozen were seriously wounded and treated at a street corner as they were ferried in from the blast, before being taken to a field hospital.

After the momentum and excitement of earlier in the week, rebel fighters conceded it may take another week to subdue an estimated 100 to 500 loyalists in the final pocket.

Military experts have expressed concern over the gap in fighting capability between the opposition volunteers and Gaddafi loyalists who have been trained by the SAS.

Intelligence made available to British consultants to the NTC indicates that Mutassim Gaddafi, the eldest son of the deposed dictator, remains in the town. Among the hundreds of defenders fighting for him are a "hard core" of veterans from elite units that received SAS training in counter-terrorism techniques in 2009.

The training included close quarter fighting skills in built up areas.

A consultant said the units are also expert in forming sniper units and carrying our mortar and artillery attacks.

A leading military analyst said the skills gap between the two sides had prolonged fighting in Sirte. "These are remnants of elite outfits holding out in Sirte," said Brig Ben Barry, a warfare expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. "The really important thing in urban warfare is people who know what they are doing."

Meanwhile, America confirmed it had sent a team of contractors to search for missing surface-to-air missiles that could be used to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs, said: "We know that terrorist groups have expressed interest in obtaining these weapons."


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