Rebels assault Gaddafi’s hometown

Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters drive their trucks, with mounted artillery, over the hills leading to the desert town of Wadi Bey on September 15, 2011, as a convoy of forces loyal to Libya's new rulers came under heavy fire while advancing on Moamer Kadhafi's hometown of Sirte in a bid to take one of his final pockets of resistance (AFP Photo / FRANCISCO LEONG)
Libya’s rebel forces say they are about to capture Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Gaddafi and the place where the ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi may be hiding.

­The rebels say they are already at the outskirts of the city, while loyalists are in control of its center, reported the RIA Novosti news agency.

“I believe Sirte will be liberated soon,” the source said.

The Al Arabiya television network cited rebel sources as saying that they have taken over Sirte’s airport.

The news comes after the rebels launched a massive attack on the stronghold of the Qadhadhfa tribe on Thursday. The offensive reportedly involved some 900 pickup cars with weapons mounted on them.

Earlier on Wednesday, Gaddafi addressed the UN General Assembly with a plea to protect Sirte from the attackers.

“If Sirte is isolated from the whole world and violations are made there, the world must not remain indifferent,” Gaddafi said in his letter published through Syrian media. “You must be responsible to stop the crimes there.”

Also on Thursday, French President Nikolas Sarcozy, who is visiting Tripoli, said the NATO-led coalition will continue air strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces “as long as Libyan leaders think the Libyan people are in danger.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is also in Libya now, backed his fellow European leader’s words and urged Gaddafi to give up.

“Anyone who thinks Gaddafi has any role (in ruling the country) should forget it,” the British leader declared.

Rebels managed to oust Gaddafi after six months of bloody stalemate that started in February. The uprising was backed by a NATO-led coalition, which used massive air strikes at Gaddafi-controlled territories to protect the rebels.

Several areas of Libya oppose the new authorities, including the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid. Rebel forces have laid siege to both, but so far failed to take them under control.