Raids hit home for Libya leader
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