Libya rebels poised for final push on Qaddafi's hometown (video)
Libya rebels are amassing to the east and west of Sirte, and have given Qaddafi forces in the strategic city until Saturday to surrender.
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Mr. Maghrabi said more than 50 brigades of fighters, which each average about 500 men, were massing there to take Sirte. While many of the fighters seemed to think the deadline for negotiations with the city’s tribal elders was Wednesday, Maghrabi said it had been postponed until Saturday because they did not want to attack during the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Rebels take Tripoli
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“We don’t want any more death. But if we are forced to fight, the battle will not be more difficult than Brega,” he says, as rifle reports snap through the air while fighters train with their weapons.
These rebel fighters had taken the city of Brega about a week before. That battle, for a city where important oil and gas facilities are located, broke a months-long stalemate.
The turning point came as the capital Tripoli began to fall to the rebels, and Qaddafi’s forces began to retreat toward Sirte. The rebels battled forward, taking not only Brega but also Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad as they moved west.
They were ambushed by Qaddafi’s forces twice before in Bin Jawad, and were more careful this time in clearing the city. Tuesday it was deserted other than a rebel checkpoint on the road. Military convoys rumbled past heading west, carrying heavy artillery toward Sirte. Some shops appeared smashed and burned.
TVs, washing machines, and vacuums
Rebels say the NTC is sending them all the provisions they need.
At the checkpoint sat stacks of brand-new goods – televisions, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, all in boxes as if they had come from a store, and stacks of new tires. The fighters manning the checkpoint first said the goods were humanitarian assistance sent from abroad. When questioned why televisions would be sent as humanitarian assistance, they changed the story, saying the people of Bin Jawad had left their things there for safekeeping as they fled the city ahead of the fight.
A resident of Bin Jawad who said his name was Ahmed contradicted them, saying the goods were stolen, and that rebels had confiscated the stolen goods from cars passing through the checkpoint. But rebels were not searching cars. As a reporter questioned them, they began covering the stacks of goods with blankets.
'Then we will liberate Sabha'
Back at the rebel line, dozens of fighters lie in the shade of short thorny bushes, their guns resting against the trunks.
Many say they hope that negotiations will succeed, but they are nevertheless ready for battle.
“We hope that the people of Sirte will handle themselves but we have to prepare for fighting, because we have to take Sirte,” says Mr. Faitouri. The picture on his ID badge shows a clean-shaven man, but his beard is thick after months on the front line. He says he hopes that all of Libya would soon be free.
After arriving at Sirte, he vows to go to the site of a key rebel victory in the west. “I will go to Miusrata, shake hands with the fighters there, and then go to Tripoli. And then we will liberate Sabha.”