By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Forces loyal to Libya’s interim rulers are said to control most of Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Qaddafi and one of his last strongholds.
Fighters from the National Transitional Council attacked Sirte from all sides on Friday, in the biggest assault in weeks on the Mediterranean coastal town.
The sound of tanks, heavy artillery and rockets were heard during the day as smoke drifted over the skyline.
Broadcaster Al Jazeera reports at least 10 NTC fighters were killed and some 120 wounded in the fresh clashes, mostly the result of sniper fire.
Al Jazeera also reported that NATO warplanes had hit targets inside Sirte.
UN envoy Ian Martin appealed to both sides to respect human rights and look ahead to national reconciliation.
NTC officials suspect one of Qaddafi’s sons, Mo’tassim, is in Sirte.
The ousted leader, however, is thought to be far to the south in the Sahara desert.
NTC fighters had put off a final push into Sirte to allow civilians to flee.
Those who have left describe increasingly desperate conditions inside the city of 100,000.
Libya’s new leaders control most of the country of six million, but say capturing Sirte is critical to formally declaring liberation and setting a time-line for elections.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Washington trusted Libya’s interim rulers to make that declaration at the right time.