UPDATE (29 March) – Notwithstanding the earlier claims by the rebels that they had captured Sirte, the rebels have not entered the town yet. Their forces are now gathering close to the town, where Ghaddafi forces have entrenched themselves, and a rebel attack on Ghaddafi stronghold now seems imminent.Meanwhile, the rebel government, Transitional National Council (TNC) of Libya announced it had signed a contract with Qatar Petroleum to market crude oil produced in eastern Libyan oil fields now controlled by rebel forces. The Qatari government also became the first Arab government to recognize TNC as Libya’s legitimate government.
The Libyan rebels said today that they have captured the city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown and his regime’s stronghold. The capture of Sirte (aka Surt) would be a serious loss for Gaddafi and a clear signal that the balance of power in Libya has shifted in favor of the opposition.
Only last week, Gaddafi forces had reached the outskirts of the rebel capital of Bengazi, and Gaddafi himself was threatening the city residents that his forces would go house to house and would show no mercy, killing and murdering residents. Soon after he made the threat, the coalition and NATO forces began their massive military campaign against his forces and the rebels found new life. They retook the city of Ajdabiya on Friday, and the oil terminal towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf on Saturday. On Sunday, they captured the strategic town of Bin Jawwad, where a week ago they were routed by Gaddafi forces. And now the claim of the capture of Sirte, the most important gain by the rebels since their movement started earlier this month.
Bloggers following the events in Libya are now saying that the capture of Sirte would mean the game is practically over and Gaddafi’s days are numbered.