Rebels Prepare Attack On Gaddafi's Hometown

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I am Marco Werman, this is The World. The focus of the fighting in Libya is shifting. All week the rebels who stormed the capital Tripoli have been battling Gaddafi's supporters there to consolidate their grip on the city. Those battles aren't over but the rebels are also moving their forces east in preparation for a march on Sirte. That's Muammar Gaddafi's birthplace and perhaps the dictator's last remaining stronghold. Reporter Derek Stoffel of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is in Tripoli and he's been in touch with the rebel spokesman about the situation in Sirte. Derek, what did the spokesman tell you about the plans for Sirte?

Derek Stoffel: The spokesman said to me today that the battle for Sirte is underway and he was quite boastful that they will march in - those were his words - that they will march in and take Gaddafi's hometown. The rebels have been very boastful as of late. They are sort of buoyed by the success they have had here in Tripoli. But, when you see the actual situation on the ground, they have actually run into very stiff opposition from pro-Gaddafi forces in Sirte and another town nearby called Ras Lanouf where up to about 2,000 pro-Gaddafi loyalists forces have dug themselves in. They are heavily armed; they're firing rockets at the rebel forces. So, the battle for Sirte is underway but it's also something that I don't think the rebels were prepared for just how difficult it might be.

Werman: Derek, you're in Tripoli. The city and many other parts of Libya, for that matter, have been without power and water for days. How are people coping?

Stoffel: People are coping actually very well. I woke up this morning in the hotel; there is no water, there is hardly any food here and, for us, we are so used to that kind of stuff. When I went out and was asking people about it, they simply didn't care. I've asked dozens of people about the water and the food situation. One woman put it to me best. She said, "For 42 years we've lived under Gaddafi and it's been a difficult life." So for a couple of days she doesn't have food, she doesn't have water in her house right now. She said, "That's the price you pay for freedom." The fact that she could talk to me, a foreign journalist - she said ten days ago, a week ago, she would have been shot for doing that. So, it is a minor inconvenience here, the fact that people don't have the necessities of life, but no one is bothered by it. They are simply celebrating already what they are calling 'free' and 'new' Libya.

Werman: How are the Libyans you've been speaking with reacting to the fact that Muammar Gaddafi is still on the loose?

Stoffel: Most of them don't care whatsoever. I'm a bit surprised by that. But what they're saying is that here in Tripoli they basically have pushed him out of power. No one has seen him for weeks, if not months. He makes these odd radio broadcasts, but they've pushed him aside. In their own minds, they've got rid of their leader. He may be around, and yes, it's thought that he is directing the pro-Gaddafi forces from someplace in hiding, but, for the average Libyan, they're moving on. There are so many signs of people moving on. I was in a neighborhood, about a fifteen minutes drive from our hotel today; we stopped only because everyone in the neighborhood was out on the street, sweeping the streets. They were cleaning up the garbage. They said the garbage men haven't been around for a number of weeks. So, the civic pride that people were showing today that they are taking back their neighborhood and they are carrying out a lot of the essential services themselves; they don't need Muammar Gaddafi. They are ready to move on.

Werman: The CBC's Derek Stoffel speaking with us from Tripoli; thank you Derek.

Stoffel: You're welcomed Marco.