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Libyan forces seize most of Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid

Revolutionary fighters take a break from the battle for Sirte on Monday, the last pro-Gadhafi holdout after the fall of Bani Walid.

Associated Press

Revolutionary fighters take a break from the battle for Sirte on Monday, the last pro-Gadhafi holdout after the fall of Bani Walid.

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan revolutionary forces have captured almost all of Bani Walid, one of Moammar Gadhafi's last remaining strongholds, but still face pockets of resistance as they try to end a weekslong standoff, officials said Monday.

Fierce resistance in Bani Walid and Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte has prevented Libya's new leaders from declaring full victory and setting a timeline for elections. It has been more than two months since the former rebels gained control of the rest of the oil-rich North African nation.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the revolutionary council fighters are making progress. He called on pro-Gadhafi forces "to lay down their weapons and join the new Libya."

NATO officials have expressed surprise at the persistence of Gadhafi's supporters. Libyans believe the heavy resistance signals some of Gadhafi's sons and other high-level regime figures are hiding in the areas.

Fighters in Bani Walid, which has proved hard to capture because of its difficult terrain, said they have entered the city center for the first time but still were fighting Gadhafi supporters in surrounding villages.

"We liberated the city around sunset on Sunday and raised the revolutionary flags all over the city," field commander Abdel-Salam Genouna told the Associated Press. He said fighters had occupied the central marketplace, the hospital, the hotel and an old fort that had all been used as bases for Gadhafi loyalists.

Col. Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman in Tripoli, said revolutionary forces had control over more than 90 percent of the city. He said revolutionary forces had suffered heavy casualties but declined to give a number.

Gadhafi son killed?

A pro-Gadhafi TV station broadcasting from Syria has reportedly confirmed the death of one of the ousted Libyan leader's sons. Khamis Gadhafi, who commanded one of his father's most feared military brigades, was killed on Aug. 29 in fighting in Tarhouna, 60 miles southeast of Tripoli, according to news reports attributed to Damascus-based Arrai television.

The same station has broadcast taped statements from Moammar Gadhafi and interviews with his former spokesman, Musa Ibrahim. Rebel commanders had previously reported Khamis Gadhafi's death, possibly by a NATO airstrike, but there had been no confirmation from Gadhafi loyalists. He was said to be 28.

Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Pentagon considered cyber attack in Libya

Top Pentagon officials considered using their secretive arsenal of cyber weapons to disrupt Libya's air defenses before deciding that bombs would be the better option for preparing the way for U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, the Washington Post reported Monday, citing unnamed U.S. officials. The paper said the debate did not reach the White House and was aborted when it became clear that there was not enough time for a cyber attack to work.

Clashes in Syria: Syrian security forces clashed with gunmen believed to be army defectors in the town of Qusair, and at least five government troops were killed, an activist said.

Change in Jordan: Jordan's King Abdullah II designated a well-known international judge, Awn al-Khasawneh, as his prime minister Monday. He replaces a premier who ran afoul of reformers.

Egypt tracks funds: The two sons of ousted President Hosni Mubarak have about $340 million in Swiss banks, an Egyptian Justice Ministry official said. Switzerland has frozen the Mubarak family's assets.

Libyan forces seize most of Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid 10/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 10:59pm]
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