Raids hit home for Libya leader

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

AIR raids have tar­geted Muam­mar Gaddafi’s home­town of Sirte for the first time as rebels made a high­speed ad­vance to­ward the regime strong­hold, a for­mi­da­ble ob­sta­cle that must be over­come for the gov­ern­ment op­po­nents to reach the cap­i­tal Tripoli.

A heavy bom­bard­ment of Tripoli also be­gan af­ter night­fall, with at least nine loud ex­plo­sions and an­ti­air­craft fire heard.

Ear­lier, rebels re­gained two key oil com­plexes along the coastal high­way that runs from the op­po­si­tion­held east­ern half of the coun­try to­ward Sirte and be­yond that, to the cap­i­tal.

Mov­ing quickly wes t - ward, the ad­vance re­traced the steps of the rebels’ first march to­ward the cap­i­tal.

But this time, the world’s most pow­er­ful air forces have eased the way by pound­ing Gaddafi’s forces for the past week.

Sirte is strate­gi­cally lo­cated about half­way be­tween the rebel-held east and the Gaddafi-con­trolled west along the coastal high­way.

It is con­sid­ered a bas­tion of sup­port for Gaddafi that will be dif­fi­cult for the rebels to take and the en­trances to the city have re­port­edly been mined.

If the rebels could over­come it, mo­men­tum for a march on the cap­i­tal would sky­rocket.

Af­ter night­fall, for­eign jour­nal­ists in Sirte re­ported loud ex­plo­sions and war­planes fly­ing over­heard.

They said the city was swarm­ing with sol­diers on pa­trol. Libyan state tele­vi­sion con­firmed air raids on Sirte and Tripoli.

Res­i­dents in the con­tested city of Mis­rata in west­ern Libya re­ported fight­ing on Sun­day be­tween anti-gov­ern­ment rebels and proGaddafi forces fir­ing from tanks on res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

Mis­rata is one of two cities in west­ern Libya that have risen against t he regime and suf­fered bru­tal crack downs.

Mis­rata is lo­cated be­tween Tripoli and Sirte.

In Wash­ing­ton, De­fence Sec­re­tary Robert Gates said he could not of­fer a timetable for how long the Libya op­er­a­tion could last, as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to bol­ster its case for bring­ing the United States into an­other war in the Mus­lim world.

AD­VANCE: A Libyan rebel with a mul­ti­ple rocket launcher on the out­skirts of the town of Bin Jawad

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