Sirte, Libya: Sirte, where Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed on Thursday, according to a commander of Libya’s ruling forces, was the strongman’s hometown and last bastion.
Libya’s new rulers, who ousted the Gadhafi regime on 23 August, have said that only once Sirte has fallen will they declare the country’s liberation and begin the transition to an elected government after 42 years of Gadhafi’s iron-fisted rule.
Anti-Gadhafi fighters celebrating the fall of Sirte. Photo: Reuters.
On 15 September, six days after the expiry of an ultimatum from the new authorities to Gadhafi’s supporters to put down their arms, the NTC fighters launched an assault on the city backed by NATO air strikes.
On Thursday, field commanders and fighters from Libya’s National Transitional Council said that Sirte had fallen.
As well as being steeped in history, Sirte has been of symbolic significance as the hometown of Gadhafi.
Gadhafi even considered moving the capital from Tripoli he is so attached to the city of his birth.
Situated 360 kilometres (225 miles) east of Tripoli, Sirte is where Gadhafi has repeatedly hosted foreign guests and has become home to a number of government ministries.
In 1999, he invited African heads of state to persuade them to abandon the Organisation of African Unity in favour of his brainchild, the African Union, of which he wanted to become the first president. It was in the vicinity of this ancient fishing and commercial port that Gadhafi was born in June 1942. He built a grandiose, modern conference centre in the onetime village, which stands in sharp contrast to the dilapidated simplicity of the rest of the city’s architecture.
Sirte, which had a population of about 1,20,000 before hundreds fled the fighting, sprawls along the Mediterranean coast, perched between sea and desert halfway between Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Its position making it something of a watershed between western and eastern Libya.
It consists of a series of long, narrow streets, lined with small shops and modest hotels, which lead out into the desert.