Libya conflict: Gaddafi forces 'cornered' in Sirte

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Media captionThe BBC's Wyre Davies in Sirte: "There is a lot of very heavy shelling going into the town"

Heavy fighting has continued in the Libyan city of Sirte, with loyalist fighters holding out in just two small areas, anti-Gaddafi commanders say.

Forces with Libya's interim authority say 80% of the city - Col Gaddafi's home town - is now under their control.

The BBC's Wyre Davies in Sirte says the tactic seems to be to pummel the city into submission with barrages of shells and rockets.

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians are still trying to flee the city.

On Wednesday the head of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said he was optimistic they would soon declare total victory over pro-Gaddafi forces.

"I hope that liberation will be declared in less than a week, after we free Sirte," he said at a news conference with Tunisian Prime Minister Caid Essebsi in Benghazi.

"And within less than a month we will form a transitional government and the youth and women will have a role in that."

The NTC said taking Sirte would be a major step in being able to govern the whole of Libya, giving them full control of the country's ports and harbours.

NTC field commander Mustah Hamza said on Wednesday that his forces had made gains overnight, Reuters reported.

Image caption The heavy bombardment has caused flooding in parts of Sirte

He said loyalist fighters were now holed up in only two neighbourhoods, which he named as Neighbourhood 2 and al-Dollar.

A Reuters team in Sirte reported that 25 corpses wrapped in plastic sheeting had been found in Neighbourhood 2 on Wednesday, some with their hands tied behind their back and gunshot wounds to the head. NTC forces in the city accused pro-Gaddafi militias of execution style killings, although that could not be confirmed.

Witnesses said pro-Gaddafi green flags could still be seen flying over some buildings in the city.

Footage from the city shows some areas have been badly flooded after water pipes were hit by shelling.

The remnants of Col Gaddafi's forces in Sirte have so far fought tenaciously, surrounded on three sides and with their backs to the sea.

Anti-Gaddafi forces said on Tuesday they had captured many major facilities that were being used as loyalist bases, including the showpiece Ouagadougou conference centre and a hospital.

There have been reports that NTC officials say one of Col Gaddafi's sons, Mutassim, has been captured in Sirte and taken to Benghazi. The reports could not be confirmed.

Thousands of civilians have fled the city in recent weeks but an unknown number are thought to have stayed behind.

Cars leaving Sirte are being stopped and searched at checkpoints to prevent escaping pro-Gaddafi fighters passing themselves off as civilians.

The whereabouts of the ousted Libyan leader are still unknown, although he is believed to be hiding somewhere far to the south in the vast Libyan desert.

Pro-Gaddafi forces also hold the desert enclave of Bani Walid.

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