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Civilians Flee Sirte Battle


NTC fighters watch a rocket flying past outside Sirte airport on September 30.

NTC fighters watch a rocket flying past outside Sirte airport on September 30.

Reports says civilians have been fleeing the Libyan city of Sirte as interim forces up their attack on fighters loyal to ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Cars streamed out of city of some 100,000 throughout the day on September 30. Some of those fleeing said they had paid as much as $800 for fuel to leave the city because it was scarce.

Shelling and tank fire continued from both sides on the eastern and western fronts, black smoke rose from the center of town and NATO planes flew overhead.

Fighting was reported to be intense near a roundabout on the eastern outskirts of the city, where forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have been pinned down for five days.

Medical workers at a field hospital near Sirte said four NTC fighters had been killed by pro-Qaddafi snipers and 20 more were wounded.

A UN official said the world body was sending trucks with drinking water for the civilians fleeing Sirte.

But fighting around the city and ongoing insecurity around Bani Walid, the other loyalist hold-out, are preventing the UN from deploying aid workers inside.

Elsewhere, Tuareg tribesmen and local Arabs are reported to have exchanged hostages and signed an agreement to stabilize an area where some security official believe Qaddafi has taken refuge.

The two sides have fought skirmishes near the Saharan oasis of Ghadames.

compiled from agency reports
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