Col. Muammar Qaddafi is still in Libya, his supporters are still fighting, and a surge by the country's new leadership failed to capture a town that is one of the long-time strongman's densest centers of support. What has looked for weeks like the final throes of the Qaddafi regime apparently drags on.
The forces of the National Transitional Council have seized an airport south of Sirte, Qaddafi's birthplace, Bloomberg reported, but they faced "fierce" resistance from loyalists. And a siege of Bani Walid, another stronghold of pro-Qaddafi fighters, fell short, according to a Reuters report. The opposition "licked their wounds" after the battle, Reuters reported, while Qaddafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, called the wire service to charge that NATO's airstrikes in Sirte had killed 354 civilians.
"We are aware of these allegations," Colonel Roland Lavoie, spokesman for the Western military alliance, said in Brussels. "It is not the first time such allegations have been made. Most often, they are revealed to be unfounded or inconclusive."
The death toll could not be verified as communications with the coastal city have been scant since Tripoli fell on August 23.
More than 700 people were wounded in air strikes in Sirte on Friday, Ibrahim said, and 89 were missing.
"In the last 17 days more than 2,000 residents of the city of Sirte were killed in NATO air strikes," he added.
Ibrahim, who put his own location as near Sirte, said Gaddafi remained in the country and was confident of victory.
"We will be able to continue this fight and we have enough arms for months and months to come," he said.
The more worrisome note for supporters of the NTC could be heard in the post-battle grumbling. Forces outside Bani Walid are deeply frustrated with their leaders, Reuters reported. And while it has been almost a month since the rebels took the capital, the continued tough resistance makes instituting the elements of a new, stable Libyan state difficult.
One wouldn't know that, necessarily, from the way the Libya story is playing out in the United States. President Barack Obama will meet NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, to "congratulate Jalil on the defeat of Muammar Qaddafi’s forces and discuss transition plans."
Might want to look for a less definitive synonym for "defeat," at least while NTC fighters remain hunkered down and unhappy, still on the outskirts of a city loyal to the strongman of old.