Rebels overrun Gadhafi birthplace

Rebels overrun Gadhafi birthplace

Anti-Gadhafi fighters on Monday overran the ousted strongman’s birthplace of Qasr Abu Hadi, medics said, marking a symbolic victory in their battle to eradicate the last vestiges of his 42-year rule.

The battlefield success came as Libya’s new rulers announced a shakeup of their executive, which is overseeing the country’s transition until an interim government is formed once Gadhafi’s remaining bastions of support are subdued.

“Abu Hadi is completely free (of loyalist fighters),” said Dr Taha Sultan at a field hospital on the eastern outskirts of the Mediterranean city of Sirte.

“Our medical team came through the village and they tell us it is free,” Sultan said.

The capture of Qasr Abu Hadi, where Moammar Gadhafi was reportedly born in a nomad tent in 1942 when it was still a tiny desert hamlet, is the latest in a string of loyalist communities to be mopped up by National Transitional Council troops as they close in on the toppled despot’s diehard fighters inside Sirte.

Sultan was unable to say whether there were casualties in the fight for Qasr Abu Hadi, but he said two NTC fighters were killed in front line fighting in another part of eastern Sirte on Monday, and six were wounded.

Qasr Abu Hadi prospered under the rule of its most famous son and the surrounding countryside is dotted with large villas in gated compounds.

Most were empty, their occupants fled. But some housed large numbers of families huddled together for safety amid evident fear of retribution from the victorious NTC forces.
Most residents refused to speak and those who did were clearly afraid.

Caught in crossfire

“We are caught in the crossfire. Gadhafi’s men hide in our farms and rebels fire shells from the other side,” one said, declining to give his name.

“Two days ago, five members of a family in a house next to mine were killed when a rocket struck it. We don’t know who fired that rocket,” said the man, dressed in a traditional dishdasha.

He said he had 30 families hiding in his large villa but would not allow reporters in.
“They all are scared. There are many children too with them and they have no milk or food. I only have bread and tea to offer to them.”

NTC fighters said some of the villas had been used as arms caches by Gadhafi loyalists.

An International Committee of the Red Cross team tried to deliver desperately needed medical supplies to the Ibn Sina hospital in the centre of Sirte but was forced to turn back when a firefight erupted on the front line to the west, preventing it from crossing over.

NTC commanders, who came in for strong criticism when they launched an attack on Gadhafi forces in a nearby conference centre while the ICRC was making a delivery to the same hospital on Saturday, insisted they were only returning fire.

“We didn’t launch an attack. We were returning fire,” the NTC operations commander said.

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