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Battles in Gaddafi strongholds likely to end within week: Libyan NTC head

(Xinhua)

16:25, October 10, 2011

TRIPOLI, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The head of the ruling Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdel-Jalil said Sunday that it is possible to end the battles next week in Bani Walid and Sirte, the only remaining strongholds of fallen leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Jalil told reporters here that the battles in Bani Walid, some 180 km south of the capital, have entered its "last phase," as the NTC fighters have succeeded in sieging the town from all sides.

On Sunday, local media reported that the NTC has seized the control of an airport in Bani Walid, which is considered a hardship for attacks due to geographical problems.

Meanwhile, Jalil confirmed the NTC's unremitting assaults on Gaddafi's hometown Sirte, about 450 km east of Tripoli.

He said the fighters are still trying to look for pockets of Gaddafi loyalists and get rid of the many snipers inside Sirte, who are reportedly shooting indiscriminately at anyone that moves on the street.

On Sunday, a NTC military commander confirmed to Xinhua that the Ouagadougou conference center in downtown Sirte, one of the focus of contentions in the past days, has been captured by the NTC fighters, who now also control a hospital and a university at the main entrance to southeastern Sirte.

Casualties were caused to the NTC fighters on Sunday, said the commander, who asked to remain anonymous and failed to provide exact numbers.

The NTC's front line squad in Sirte suffered its biggest loss on Friday since the start of Sirte battles after 17 fighters were killed and over 227 wounded.

This forced them to reduce the intensity of offensives on Saturday. But one of the fighters stationed about two km from Sirte told Xinhua Saturday that fierce attacks would be likely to return on Sunday.

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