Why Sirte Matters in Struggle for Libya

Battle will say a lot about the war
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2011 11:47 AM CDT
Why Sirte Matters in Struggle for Libya
This March 24, 2011 satellite image provided by GeoEye shows Sirte, Libya.   (AP Photo/GeoEye)

Earlier this week, Libyan rebels fought their way to the outskirts of Sirte, a city that could prove crucial to the outcome of the war—and which most Americans have probably never heard of. Not to fear; the Huffington Post has a full outline of the city’s history. Sirte was once just a rural town, it explains, but in the 1980s, Gadhafi decided to turn his hometown into his capitol, building loads of Soviet-style administrative buildings there.

It didn’t work—Sirte was still a dull town in the middle of nowhere and no one wanted to move there from Tripoli—but the buildings remained, and became a major boon for Gadhafi’s tribe, the Gadhadhfa. So Sirte has huge symbolic importance, and its residents are thought to be Gadhafi loyalists. If that's true, rebels might not be able to take or hold Sirte without killing civilians, and that would make the war look less like a liberation campaign and more like a tribal conflict. (More Sirte, Libya stories.)

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