The people of Sirte mount fierce fightback

Moamer Kadhafi loyalists mounted a fierce counter-attack in the city of Sirte on Saturday, forcing back new regime fighters under a barrage of rockets and shelling, an AFP reporter said.

Fighters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) fled helter-skelter two kilometres (just over a mile) to the captured police headquarters in the Mediterranean city, one of Kadhafi’s last holdouts.

“Run, run, run!” rang out from the retreating forces.

After absorbing rocket fire and shells from NTC fighters in the morning and early afternoon, Kadhafi diehards now concentrated in two neighbourhoods — the Dollar and Number Two — unleashed their own barrage late afternoon.

As Grad and other rockets, shells and machinegun fire rained down on them, NTC combatants, taken by surprise, quickly fled the positions on the edge of the two neighbourhoods that they had held since Friday night.

Thick black smoke covered the two districts as rockets and shells smashed into buildings, setting some ablaze.

In a provisional casualty toll issued before the breakout, medics at a field hospital on the western outskirts of Sirte said one person was killed and around a dozen injured on Saturday.

“Kadhafi fighters are now concentrated in a small place but we can’t enter all at the same time. We need a plan to defeat them,” Omran Allahoyb, commander of a Misrata brigade, said before the pro-Kadhafi advance.

“We can take this place in one day but I will lose 100 men,” he said, adding that the best strategy would be to bomb the area of around 1.5 square kilometres (about half a square mile) into defeat.

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