Rebel forces were digging in around Sirte, a day after mounting a ferocious assault on the birthplace of their former leader Muammar Gaddafi supported by a Nato air raid on the town.
Seven rebel soldiers were killed yesterday and more than 150 injured in a long battle on the town's outskirts before a lull in the fighting. At emergency first- aid posts near the frontline, men wounded by sniper fire and shrapnel streamed in.
"Our commanders asked us not to move forward," said Abdul Salam Awlaysh, serving with the Khatteen Brigade. "We know there are still civilians inside," he added, explaining that the evacuation of civilians was the rebels' priority.
Troops loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC) stormed into Sirte on Saturday in a three-pronged assault that succeeded in taking a building on its main street that was occupied by state TV and radio.
Thousands of NTC fighters have been stationed outside the town, 250 miles south-east of Tripoli, for weeks now but were struggling to make headway.
Living conditions in Sirte were said to be increasingly desperate, with growing shortages. "No food, no electricity, no nothing," said Abdul Nasser Sadiq, an economics teacher.Reuse content