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Libyan Rebels Gain Control of Sirte, Last Gadhafi Stronghold

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(SIRTE, Libya) -- Two months after anti-government forces overran the Libyan capital of Tripoli rebel fighters Thursday appeared to have finally seized control of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte from his loyalists, according to published reports.

This takeover signifies the official end of Gadhafi’s four-decade dictatorial rule of Libya, which began to crumble last February when pro-democracy activists staged an uprising in the eastern city of Benghazi that spread westward.

Within a month, NATO, along with U.S. assistance, came to the aid of rebel forces by establishing a no-fly zone over Libya, which grounded Gadhafi’s war jets as pro and anti-government fighters engaged in a five-month battle that culminated with the rogue leader, his family, and remaining supporters fleeing Tripoli in late August.

Still, the National Transitional Council -- Libya’s new regime -- was unable to fully establish a new government until cities considered Gadhafi strongholds were also under control, namely Bani Walid, which fell earlier this week, and Sirte, a strategic port city.

The fight for Sirte was meticulously planned as the TNC tried to minimize civilian casualties.  Pockets of resistance that included snipers prevented a quick victory, so rebels proceeded to gain control of Sirte block by block over several weeks until the last of Gadhafi's loyalists were sent running Thursday.

Even though Gadhafi’s whereabouts are still unknown, taking Sirte essentially leaves him with no base city to plot counter-moves against TNC fighters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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