Through hell and high water: final push in battle for Sirte

Battling through streets turned into shallow canals by burst water mains, forces loyal to Libya's new rulers faced pockets of fierce resistance yesterday from Muammar Gaddafi supporters in their stronghold of Sirte.

The former rebels have control over most of the city where high-level figures from the old regime are thought to be holed up, according to Libyan officials. Thousands of civilians are also trapped in the city without food and clean water, the Red Cross said.

There are reports that Mutassim Gaddafi, the son of the former dictator and the country's national security adviser, has been captured. Rebel officials told Reuters that he had been taken to Benghazi, but the claims were played down by the country's new leadership, the National Transitional Council. Muammar Gaddafi and his eldest son, Saif al-Islam, remain at large and their whereabouts unknown.

Libya's de facto leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said on Wednesday that he expected to declare total victory in less than a week, which would pave the way for a new interim government to be named to guide the oil-rich North African nation to elections within eight months.

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