Tripoli, Sept 11 (ANI): NATO launched air strikes on Saturday against Bani Walid, one of the last remaining Libyan towns still held by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Loyalists were mounting fierce resistance, fuelling speculation about which regime figures were hiding in the desert, The Guardian reports.
Reports suggested that rebel commanders believe several hundred fighters are trapped in the town, 90 miles south-east of Tripoli. Street-to-street fighting raged and loyalists were accused of firing Grad rockets from civilian homes.
Air strikes destroyed fortified positions near the town centre, including buildings thought to shelter Scud missiles that have already been launched against rebel-held Misrata.
Overnight fighting saw eight prisoners, one of them a brigadier, captured by rebel patrols, and one unit of Misrata's Halbus brigade, thought to be operating with forward air controllers of the SAS, is now six miles from the town centre, the paper said.
However, the fierce resistance convinced rebel forces to cancel an attack planned for the early hours of the morning, together with an offensive farther east at Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace and his final coastal stronghold.
Yesterday, three weeks after rebel forces entered Tripoli, the head of the new government, the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, arrived in the capital. He landed at an air force base on the outskirts of the city to be met by an enthusiastic crowd.
However, loyalist units continue to hold out in Sirte and in a series of desert towns far to the south.
Khalid Abdula Salem, commander of the rebel Western Front, said that advanced units were inside the suburbs of the town and found many people flying the green flag of Gaddafi. He said no reprisals were being taken against them.
"Some houses now have our flag, some have the green flag. For those houses, we take down the green flag," he added.
According to reports, an attack ordered for the early hours of the morning was cancelled, apparently to give NATO jets freedom to strike.
"We have an order from the National Transitional Council not to go inside," he said. (ANI)