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Libya's NTC fighters stage final advance in Sirte holdout

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 12, 2011 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NTC forces control 90% of Sirte, a field commander says
  • Seven NTC fighters were killed in clashes with Gadhafi loyalists, he says
  • NATO: Sirte and Bin Walid are the two areas with pro-Gadhafi sentiment

(CNN) -- Forces loyal to the new Libyan government were staging a final advance into the last area in Sirte still controlled by pro-Moammar Gadhafi fighters.

National Transitional Council field commander Ibrahim Ashour said Wednesday that his forces control 90% of the city, but are encountering stiff resistance in securing the rest of it.

On Tuesday, seven NTC fighters were killed and 15 wounded in clashes with Gadhafi loyalists there, Ashour said.

Fighting has raged for days in Sirte, east of the capital, Tripoli, on the Mediterranean coast. It is Gadhafi's hometown and the last city with a seaport under the former Libyan leader's control.

The other area with signifiant pro-Gadhafi sentiment is Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, a NATO spokesman said Tuesday.

Col. Roland Lavoie, spokesman for NATO's Operation Unified Protector, said there's no "evidence of significant pro-Gadhafi presence or activity" in the rest of Libya.

"The posture of pro-Gadhafi forces at this stage just does not make sense," Lavoie said.

"It is clear that they could not change or influence the outcome of this conflict, and they have refused opportunities to be part of a political solution, and basically they have opted to choose to inflict pain to the rest of the population in Libya."

Meanwhile, in a sign of stability in the rest of the country, Tripoli International Airport was official reopened Tuesday.

CNN's Dan Rivers and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report

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