Gaddafi stronghold Sirte captured (celebrations VIDEO)
According to Associated Press, the final push to capture the remaining pro-Gaddafi positions began around 8am on Thursday and ended after about 90 minutes.
At least 16 pro-Gaddafi fighters are believed to have been captured, along with multiple cases of ammunition and trucks loaded with weapons.
Celebratory gunfire has echoed through Sirte.
Video from the site shows Libyan interim government fighters hoisting the new national flag over a captured holdout in the center of the city.
Just before the assault, about five carloads of loyalists tried to flee the enclave down the coastal highway, but were killed by anti-Gaddafi forces, who are now searching homes and buildings.
The city has been under siege by forces from the rebel center of Misrata since March. The attackers reported successful offensive operations against the Gaddafi loyalists on several occasions, but each time were eventually pushed back.
For weeks, NTC commanders have been saying that the fighting would end soon. However so far, that has not been accomplished, mostly due to unexpectedly fierce resistance by Gaddafi loyalists.
The interim government has recently been criticized for the slow progress in taking one of the last strongholds held by Muammar Gaddafi supporters. According to Reuters, the NTC's failure to seize Sirte, nearly two months since the fall of Tripoli, has raised questions about its ability to exert its authority over the entire country and has postponed the launch of its promised democracy program.
On Monday, the forces of the National Transitional Council captured Bani Walid, another loyalist stronghold.
Mark Almond, International Relations professor at Turkey's Bilkent University believes the fall of the last stronghold may not only be the “beginning of the end,” but “the end of the beginning” as well.
“There are a lot of Libyans who sided with Gaddafi. There are a lot of Libyans who took an opposing side. But those who’ve suffered, those who’ve seen members of their family killed, disappeared, may well now blame the victorious rebels since they are far from seeing the end of fighting,” he told RT. “This victory could be the source of new feuds. We have to remember Libya has a tradition for the like of feuds and vendettas and it would be naïve to think that simply seeing the rebel flag raised and Colonel’s Gaddafi green flag put down is the end of the story.”
“What we might now see is an insurgency,” Almond went on. “And NATO may find itself drawn deeper and deeper into the desert. Unless Colonel Gaddafi is caught, unless his sons are caught, there is the potential phenomenon [of] ongoing resistance. Unless some miraculous transformation in the economy and society takes place so that everybody feels happy with the new system, the risks are there will be infighting amongst different groups and also continuing insurgency by those who feel that Gaddafi is preferable to what has come. And even those who hated Gaddafi may not feel happy with each other. And in fact, I think the fall of Gaddafi, if he was captured, is far from ending trouble in Libya [and] could be the spark to new conflicts when those who come together because they fear Gaddafi coming back fall apart once they know that there is nothing to fear.”