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Libyan NTC forces thrust deep into Gaddafi home town

Sep 24, 2011, 3:59 p.m.
Anti-Gaddafi fighters fire heavy artillery near Sirte, September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

The NTC, the political leadership of the rebel movement that rose up against Gaddafi's 42-year-rule and drove him from power with support from the West and several Arab nations, faces a challenge in trying to impose its authority across Libya.

It said last week it would move to Tripoli only after its forces were in full control of Libyan territory, contradicting an earlier pledge to move the interim administration from Benghazi around mid-September.

Raising a new challenge, Abdelraouf al-Kurdi, a representative of fighters from a Tripoli district, said arms seized from sites in the capital had been taken to other parts of Libya by fighters who filled the city to overthrow Gaddafi.

Interim government forces operate in disparate units based on their home towns, with little overall command.

NTC officials have said Gaddafi used mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to bolster his ranks during the war.

Tanks were seen moving beyond the gate toward Sirte and Reuters journalists said NTC forces got to within 40 km of the city and were planning to hold that position after nightfall.

"We are coming for you, wild-haired one," fighters chanted, referring to Gaddafi.

On Thursday, the NTC said it had taken full control of Sabha, which was the traditional base for Gaddafi's own tribe. About 800 km (500 miles) south of Tripoli, it had been occupied by fighters loyal to him.

The NTC says it also controls Jufra, to the northeast of Sabha, and the nearby oasis towns of Sokna, Waddan and Houn.

The manhunt for Gaddafi, who has been in hiding for weeks occasionally issuing audio messages through Syrian-based Arrai TV, is drawing closer to its target, NTC officials say.

(Reporting by Goran Tomasevic south of Sirte, Sherine El Madany east of Sirte, William Maclean and Joseph Logan in Tripoli, Emad Omar in Benghazi and John O'Donnell in Brussels; Writing by Barry Malone; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

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