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Fighters push into Gadhafi's hometown; Bloody battle raises fears of drawn-out insurgency

Heavy fighting was reported Saturday in the battle for Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, while a military spokesman for Libya's new government conceded that it has no idea where the former leader is hiding.

Fighters allied with the new government pushed farther into Sirte along Libya's central Mediterranean coast, but again met stiff resistance from well-armed loyalists ensconced in the pro-Gadhafi bastion.

The military command in nearby Misrata said that at least 24 of its fighters had been killed in Sirte while at least 54 had been wounded, with many suffering injuries from loyalist mortar rounds or Grad missiles. There was no word on the dead and injured among civilians and pro-Gadhafi forces.

The bloody battles for Sirte and other loyalist strongholds have raised fears of a possible long-term insurgency in Libya. From hiding, Gadhafi has called on his followers to fight to the death.

Col. Ahmed Omar Bani, the transitional government's chief military spokesman, told reporters in Tripoli that authorities had no "certain information" about the whereabouts of Gadhafi. Libya's longtime ruler is believed to have fled the capital when it fell to the rebels last month.

In another besieged pro-Gadhafi town, Bani Walid, fighters loyal to the new government looked to regroup Saturday after being routed Friday in their latest frontal assault on the heavily defended bastion southeast of Tripoli.

Pro-Gadhafi forces have maintained control of three cities and a loose corridor of territory running from Sirte through Libya's immense hinterlands down to the southern desert town of Sabha, the other major Libyan town in the hands of loyalists.