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Libyan rebels ‘capture Gaddafi chemical weapons site’

Libya’s interim rulers said on Wednesday they had captured one of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s last strongholds deep in the Sahara desert, finding chemical weapons, and largely taken control of another.


“We control most of Sabha apart from the al-Manshiya district. This is still resisting, but it will fall,” said Ahmed Bani, another NTC military spokesman.

CNN, citing a correspondent in Sabha, reported that NTC fighters had occupied its centre on Wednesday after taking the airport and a fort the day before.

Nato countries gave the NTC another boost by extending for three more months the air cover that helped anti-Gaddafi fighters to victory.

However, chaos prevailed among fighters besieging Gaddafi’s other two remaining major strongholds. Several attempts by NTC fighters to take Bani Walid and Sirte in the past week have ended in disarray and panicked retreat.

At Bani Walid, bored militiamen fired weapons at camels and sheep while awaiting orders on Wednesday, as much a danger to themselves as to Gaddafi fighters holed up in the town.

One man shot his own head off and killed another fighter while handling a rocket-propelled grenade in full view of a Reuters team. In another incident, a fighter wounded himself and another fighter after losing control of his machinegun.

Seven NTC fighters were also killed in an ambush by pro-Gaddafi soldiers inside Bani Walid, NTC officials said.

At Bani Walid, troops from other areas have been arguing with local fighters, and there has been talk of traitors infiltrating the ranks and sabotaging the assault.

NTC official Abdullah Kenshil told Reuters that pro-Gaddafi forces in Bani Walid had killed at least 16 civilians there in the last two days after suspecting they supported the NTC.

“They were killed in cold blood. They were all civilians and they were killed execution-style,” he said. His account could not be independently verified.

Sporadic fighting also continued outside Sirte, where an NTC push from the east toward Gaddafi’s birthplace has been blocked for days by heavy artillery fire from loyalist soldiers.

Fighters making their way back from the front line said they were meeting fierce resistance at Khamseen, 50km (30 miles) east of Sirte, and that they lacked the firepower to respond.

“I’m 100 per cent sure that there is someone important in Sirte, either Gaddafi himself or one of his sons, because his forces have become suicidal in the Khamseen area,” NTC fighter Hamed al-Hachy told Reuters.

Filed in: World News

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