Fighters for Libya's transitional rebel government attacked the Qaddafi security compound in the center of his hometown of Sirte on Tuesday.

Rebel forces have repeatedly claimed to be on the verge of victory in Sirte, only to suffer sudden and bloody reversals at the hands of fiercely competent Qaddafi loyalists with no avenue of egress.

But Sunday Reuters reported that pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns were pounding the Qaddafi compound in the city center while irregular infantry fired AK-47s.

"We are now in the center of Sirte," Colonel Salam Al Shalmany told Reuters at the scene. "They are in these buildings about half a kilometer from where we are. Once we finish this, it's over. This has gone on too long."

Such gains by fighters for the rebel council have frequently proven short-lived. Earlier on Sunday, a large group of fighters, approaching Sirte from the west were routed by a heavy and accurate mortar bombardment.

Elsewhere in the city, troops and residents still loyal to the former leader launched counter attacks after losing three landmark buildings -- the hospital, the university and the lavish Ouagadougou center, built to host summits of foreign dignitaries.

In just one field hospital to the east of the city, doctors told Al Jazeera they had 17 dead and 87 wounded from Sunday's fighting.

Officials for the interim rebel government have directly their plans to declare Libya liberated to the fall of Sirte, but two other strongholds, the oasis of Bani Walid and Sebha in the south, remain unconquered.

Rebel commanders predicted Bani Walid would fall later in the week, but observers say such predictions - which have repeatedly proven false - may be overly optimistic without a serious commitment of forces to take the city.

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