Chris McGreal reports from the frontline, 80km east of Sirte. “The bulk of the rebel forces is holding back around here, while the coalition air forces strike at Gaddafi’s armour,” Chris says.
Chris has advanced with the rebels from Ajdabiya – “around 250-300 miles” – without the rebels “having to fire a shot”.
“They just drive on as Gaddafi’s forces retreat. Once there was the breakthrough at Ajdabiya, which came on Saturday after concerted coalition airstrikes against Gaddafi’s tanks and armour there, after which Gaddafi’s troops turned and fled, essentially the rebels have just been following them down the road. It’s not been a fighting pursuit, it’s just been following them as they retreat.
There does seem to be some kind of defence about 50 miles out of [Sirte]. It’s not clear how large that is, but it’s large enough to hold up the rebels now for the first time in a couple of days.”
Chris says that if Sirte was to fall to the rebels it would be a “huge political and psychological blow to Gaddafi’s government:
“If it can’t defend Sirte I think many people would think the game was probably up, but again I think it goes back to how much the coalition air forces are prepared to go on bombing. If they continue bombing their way along the coastal highway clearing the way for the rebels, then I suppose in the end there perhaps isn’t anything to stop them.”