Bloomberg News

Libyans Cheer Over Sirte-Victory Claim Amid Reports Qaddafi Held

October 20, 2011

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan fighters hoisted national flags as they claimed control of Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte amid reports that the deposed dictator had been captured and was injured.

Qaddafi’s injuries are serious, Agence France-Presse said, citing a commander in the former rebel forces. The report couldn’t be independently verified. A National Transitional Council spokesman, Mahmoud Shammam, said he couldn’t confirm that Qaddafi was captured while leaving Sirte. The Misrata Military Council, which is leading operations in Sirte, said in an e-mail that it couldn’t comment on the former leader’s fate for security reasons.

The country’s new leaders cautioned that is was too early to declare complete victory over Qaddafi’s loyalists.

“Technically speaking, Sirte is under our control but there are still some pockets of resistance and some Qaddafi fighters are trying to escape,” Jalal El-Galal, a spokesman for the NTC, said earlier today in a phone interview in Benghazi. “The declaration of liberation won’t happen yet.”

Anti-Qaddafi forces in the eastern city of Benghazi joined the Sirte fighters in celebrating their advances in Sirte. The scenes in Sirte, where the fighters fired their weapons into the air, were televised live by broadcasters including Al Jazeera.

The start of NTC control of Sirte would begin the countdown to elections for a national council within eight months.

Thousands of civilians fled the Mediterranean town, a major Qaddafi stronghold, during lulls in fighting, which erupted early last month after talks on its surrender broke down. The NTC had attributed the tenacity of Qaddafi loyalists in Sirte to the presence of his senior aides, including one of his sons, Mutassim, and to their fear of revenge attacks.

--With assistance from Mariam Fam in Cairo. Editors: Heather Langan, Ben Holland

To contact the reporters on this story: Ola Galal in Benghazi at ogalal@bloomberg.net; Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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