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Bloody Battle Continues in Gadhafi’s Hometown

September 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Although the rebels in Libya are now officially recognized as the government and control the capital, pro-Gadhafi forces continue to fight in the longtime leader's hometown of Sirte. James Foley of GlobalPost reports on the human toll of the daily firefights.

The one-time rebel forces are now recognized as the official government and control Tripoli. But they continue to meet fierce resistance in the battle for Sirte, the hometown of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

That’s where James Foley of the international Web site GlobalPost has been. He filed this report.

JAMES FOLEY, GlobalPost: The battle for the symbolic city of Sirte is turning into a bloodbath. Gadhafi’s hometown, his last remaining stronghold, is under assault from some 600 vehicles and 1,500 rebel fighters.

ABDULLAH AL ALI, Libya: The street, the street in Sirte city, actually, we’re looking for some snipers here. There’s some snipers. And we need to go inside this — this city.

JAMES FOLEY: But the offensive is disorganized and proving costly. Over 40 rebels have been killed and hundreds wounded since the fight began here six days ago.

JAMES FOLEY: This trauma doctor lost a colleague who went to the front in an ambulance just that morning.

DR. ALI METRI, Trauma Doctor: He dropped me here and he told me, “I will carry some injured persons, to bring them here.” He — he died.

JAMES FOLEY: Far from being a united front against a 42-year tyrant, the rebels are often splintered along tribal and geographic lines, with each faction following their own orders or no orders at all.

MAN: Why is he up there? There is no organization. There’s no commander. You understand that?

JAMES FOLEY: Rebel forces are now trying to take this complex called Ouagadougou, which they believe is a military infrastructure where there are snipers and some heavy weapons.

In the bloody back-and-forth, rebels gained ground, only to give it back again after nightfall, because there was no master plan.

MAN: It’s all black. There’s not light. They can’t see anything.

JAMES FOLEY: So, they retreat back?

MAN: They have to retreat back a bit of kilometers. And we come back in the morning.

JAMES FOLEY: The Gadhafi forces inside Sirte aren’t letting up the fight. They’re attacking from civilian areas, limiting the rebels’ ability to fire back. This civilian who escaped from Sirte describes the situation.

MAN: They are firing some missile in back of my house.

JAMES FOLEY: And they have even targeted a field hospital.

MAN: They’re now bombing us, our station here.

JAMES FOLEY: On their push into the city, rebel commanders try to wall off the fight in some neighborhoods, so families can flee. But they’re also laying down plenty of their own firepower, and there are reports of civilian injuries.

MAN: The missiles is bombing us 24 hours.

JAMES FOLEY: The fear here is that the disarray among the rebels can foreshadow a grim future and that the fight to oust Gadhafi might lead to an even bloodier one to control the country afterwards.

GWEN IFILL: There is still also fierce fighting under way for control of another Gadhafi stronghold, Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli.