Bani Walid (Libya), Oct 18: Libyan fighters today celebrated the fall of this stubborn former regime stronghold by firing weapons in the air and hanging revolutionary flags on buildings, while in another part of the country, their comrades launched a major assault on Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.
In the capital Tripoli, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced increased support for Libya's new leaders, pledging millions of dollars in aid including medical care for wounded fighters and additional assistance to secure weaponry that many fear could fall into the hands of terrorists.
The push from the east of Sirte to rout remaining resistance came a day after commanders announced they had captured most of a second stronghold, Bani Walid, 140 kilometers southeast of Tripoli.
While welcoming successes in Bani Walid, Libya's new leaders have said they would only declare liberation after the fall of Sirte. The capture of the coastal city 400 kilometers southeast of the capital would have symbolic value as well as give them control of the country's ports and harbours.
Revolutionary fighters have been locked in battle in Sirte and suffering heavy casualties after launching what they said would be an all-out final assault on October 7.
Military commander Ali Abdel-Rahman in Bani Walid said that revolutionary forces were supplied with new weapons on Saturday which allowed them to surge into the small city the next day.
“We didn't find a regular army but only loyalists to Gaddafi, snipers with automatic weapons,” he said. “There was no resistance but we lost three martyrs on the first day.”