Sirte, Oct 16 : Fighters of Libya's new regime launched a fresh assault on the desert oasis of Bani Walid today, even as fighting eased in the city of Sirte, the other main holdout of Muammar Gaddafi diehards. “We have resumed combat operations and we have advanced from the northern front as well as from the south,” said Musa Yunis, who heads National Transitional Council (NTC) forces in Bani Walid, some 170 kilometres (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli.
NTC fighters have surrounded the town but their commanders pulled them back last week after suffering heavy losses and to prepare for a new offensive against the 1,500 pro-Gaddafi fighters thought to remain in Bani Walid.
The disparate forces of the new regime had a week ago paid a heavy price for their lack of coordination, having to abandon control of the airport and suffering heavy casualties with 17 men killed and more than 80 wounded. In Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, where fierce clashes between NTC forces and those loyal to deposed leader Gaddafi have raged for a month, today saw a lull with only intermittent shelling and rocket-fire, AFP correspondents said.
“We are shelling with tanks and anti-aircraft weapons and then we will send our troops onto the streets,” said Salem Ahmed, a tank commander from the eastern city of Benghazi. Ahmed said the advance was being held up by pro-Gaddafi snipers.
Focus of the NTC operations are two seaside residential neighbourhoods, the Dollar and Number Two, where Gaddafi loyalists are holed up.