Celebration begins as NTC to control Bani Walid
Updated: 2011-10-18 08:43
Fighters with Libya's interim government celebrate in the centre of Bani Walid October 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
BANI WALID, Libya - Celebratory gunshots by fighters of Libya's new ruling authorities are echoing in the sky on Monday over Bani Walid, as solid advances have been made in the oasis town, one of a couple of last strongholds of forces loyal to fallen leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Despite a lack of an agreed version on the progress in Bani Walid, some 170 km southeast of the capital Tripoli, fighters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) at the front line seems assured that the final victory is just around the corner.
Even cars with children aboard were seen entering the city for a premature celebration, whilst fighters stationing at the town's northwestern entrance showed the "V" gesture in a sturdy manner, shouting to each other "Safety (in the city)! Safety! Safety!"
At an elevated point along a road leading to the center of Bani Walid, scores of NTC fighters, all in high spirits, fired ceaselessly for minutes into the sky with machine guns and cannons, chanting "Allah is the greatest" and anti-Gaddafi slogans. Meanwhile, a number of others were painting graffiti images on a giant wall nearby.
The excitement was at its highest when three pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, believed to be from Niger, were passing by the spot aboard a NTC pickup after being captured from inside the city.
The three, holding their heads in hands, were squatting at the open-top rare of the pickup under the escort of a couple of NTC fighters. They were fisted by many fighters along the street as the car went outside the city.
A NTC fighter Mohamed Elkhoja told Xinhua reporter on the scene that they have arrested 25 pro-Gaddafi soldiers on Sunday, while only small pockets of them are still making a gambling fight.
Meanwhile, another fighter, with one AK-47 in each of his hand, said the city has been "almost all controlled" by the "revolutionary fighters" as of early Monday, after they succeeded in gathering in the city center from three sides the previous day and raising the NTC's flags in the town.
But there are still spots of confrontation in the city, as some Gaddafi loyalists on Sunday managed to stand up to a staunch NTC attack which aimed to conclude the siege, admitted the fighter, who identifies himself as Hakim.
As some pickups loaded with machine guns continued to enter deep into the city for final assaults, a dozen of roaring ambulances rushed outward, carrying the wounded that have been the targets of scattered pro-Gaddafi snipers hiding atop of some tall buildings.
At a field hospital about 20 km from Bani Walid, a doctor told Xinhua that a total of 17 NTC fighters were killed on Sunday and 35 others were wounded.
In spite of the sacrifice, almost all fighters said they are confident about an early end of the Bani Walid battles after the mopping-up process in the city, which is now almost empty of civilians.
On Monday, NTC military spokesman Ahmed Bani said in Tripoli that more than 90 percent of Bani Walid has been under the NTC's control. He told reporters that, with the downtown at hand, the "liberation" of the city, a geographic difficulty, will be "in a couple of days."
However, some field commanders are already quoted by local media as saying that the NTC has already taken full control of Bani Walid on Monday.