Libyan rebels are launching their “final assault” on former dictator Muammar Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte – but it's not over yet.
National Transitional Council loyalists are facing a fierce battle, said NTC head Mustafa Abdel-Jalil. He told reporters at a joint news conference in Tripoli late Saturday with visiting British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, and Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa that the battle was “very vicious.”
Nevertheless, the rebel forces managed to secure a four-lane highway leading to a key base held by Qaddafi loyalists in the town.
Libya's ruling NTC interim government has said that Sirte must fall prior to formally declaring liberation, and setting a timeline for democratic elections.
Since Tripoli was captured on August 23, the NTC has ruled most of the rest of the country.
However, rebel commanders say that one of Qaddafi's sons, Mutassim, is still based in Sirte, leading the loyalist forces.
Fighters for the new regime said they have been stationed for weeks outside Bani Walid, located about 100 miles (170 kilometers) southeast of the capital, but have yet to receive orders.