18 Sep 2011

Anti-Gaddafi forces meet strong resistance in desert

10:09 pm on 18 September 2011

Powerful explosions and sustained machinegun fire rattled the Libyan desert stronghold of Bani Walid as fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi shelled positions held by interim government forces on Sunday.

Forces backed by Libya's new rulers, which have surrounded the city, say fighting is continuing on the outskirts as their opponents put up strong resistance.

Libyan interim government forces also battled on the streets of Colonel Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, as they struggle to quash his last pockets of support.

The remaining forces of the ousted leader are holding out in Sirte, Bani Walid and several other towns. Colonel Gaddafi has been in hiding since opposition forces captured the capital Tripoli in August.

A spokesperson for the forces of the new interim leadership, the National Transitional Council (NTC), says the airport at Sirte and a nearby military base have been captured, the BBC reports.

Pro-Gaddafi forces say more than 300 civilians were killed in a Nato airstrike on Sirte, but the rebels say only fighters loyal to Colonel Gaddafi have been killed, the ABC reports.

A spokesperson for Colonel Gaddafi says he is still in Libya and leading resistance.