SIRTE, Libya - Libyan provisional government forces have closed in on Muammar Gaddafi loyalists holed up in Sirte, one of the last two bastions of the deposed leader.
The advance on Monday from the east to about 2 km (1.2 miles) from the centre of Gaddafi's home town raised hopes that the National Transitional Council (NTC) was one step closer to claiming full control of the fractured country.
NATO aircraft launched air strikes against positions of Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte, paving the way for the deep push by the NTC fighters.
Thick black smoke billowed into the air as fighters battled Gaddafi loyalists on Sunday at a roundabout 2 km from the center of the town. The thud of large explosions could be heard as NATO aircraft roared overhead.