Fighters told: Don’t take revenge in Gaddafi town

Richard Porritt
6 Oct 2011

The battle for Colonel Gaddafi’s stronghold of Sirte is almost won, according to the new Libyan government.

Revolutionary troops fought their way street-by-street today to take over the heart of the city after weeks of combat in the toppled leader’s home town.

But National Transitional Council leaders have had to warn troops not to take revenge by looting homes abandoned by residents fleeing the violence.

NTC sources said most of those looting homes are unorganised, volunteer bands of gunmen from the city of Misrata, which was besieged by Gaddafi’s forces during the uprising against his rule.

Trying to rein them in are revolutionaries from eastern Libya, which shook off Gaddafi’s rule early and whose leaders have had time to organise their forces.

NTC army commanders said pro-Gaddafi forces had mostly abandoned their heavy weapons and switched to small arms as they were forced into close-quarter fighting.

Nato said air strikes would continue but no bombs had been dropped on Sirte since the weekend.

Adel Al-Hasi, who is among the troops leading the charge into Sirte, said: “More than half the city is under the control of the rebels. In two days, God willing, Sirte will be free.”

One group of anti-Gaddafi fighters have positioned themselves in a hotel on the Mediterranean coast, using it as cover to fire on loyalists in a nearby residential area.

Built for Gaddafi and his guests, the hotel is riddled with holes from bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Sirte.

They say people are dying from wounds in the hospital because they cannot be treated properly, while residents are falling ill from malnutrition and drinking tainted water.

Robert Lanknau, an aid worker with the International Medical Corps, said he was working at a field hospital near Sirte that was treating up to 100 civilians a day who had fled the bombardment.

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