Libya fighters: We're battling in pro-Gaddafi town

Libya's new rulers had set today's deadline for Gaddafi loyalists in Bani Walid to surrender or face an offensive but decided to attack yesterday evening after Gaddafi forces fired volleys of rockets at the fighters' positions around the town.

Abdullah Kenshil, the former rebels' chief negotiator, said the former rebels were fighting gunmen positioned in houses in the town and the hills that overlooked it.

Anti-Gaddafi forces were moving in from the east and south, and the fighters deepest inside Bani Walid were clashing with Gaddafi's men about 2 kilometres from the centre of the town, Kenshil said.

Revolutionary forces also battled loyalists to the east of the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, but were forced to pull back after taking heavy casualties in close-quarters fighting, a spokesman said.

Before the reported yesterday evening assault on Bani Walid, Gaddafi holdouts in the city fired mortars and rockets toward the fighters' position in a desert dotted with green shrubs and white rocks, killing at least one and wounding several.

Loud explosions were heard about 10 kilometres from the front line, followed by plumes of black smoke in the already hazy air. NATO planes circled above.

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