Rebel leaders arrive in Tripoli, Gaddafi defiant

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Rebel leaders arrive in Tripoli, Gaddafi defiant

TRIPOLI — Muammar Gaddafi urged his supporters Thursday to wage war on rebels who have seized most of Libya and put him to flight, as opposition leaders arrived in Tripoli preparing to take power.

By (AFP)

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Published: Thu 25 Aug 2011, 11:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:37 PM

Gaddafi’s audio message came as the head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, gave the grim assessment that more than 20,000 people had been killed in the drive since mid-February to end the strongman’s 42-year iron-fisted rule.

Gaddafi, who has a $1.7 million price on his head, said in his third audio message since rebels overran his Tripoli headquarters on Tuesday, “We must resist these enemy rats, who will be defeated thanks to the armed struggle,”

“Leave your homes and liberate Tripoli,” he added in the message broadcast on Syria-based Arrai Oruba television.

Addressing the youth of the city, which rebels say they mostly control, he said, “Fight them street by street, alley by alley, house to house. With rifles and pistols they will be annihilated.”

“Do not fear them, fear only God,” he said, telling them not to fear bombardment by NATO warplanes. “They are just sound bombs.”

Even as he was speaking, half of the NTC members were arrived in Tripoli to begin a transition to the post-Gaddafi era.

“Half of the government is here, and today we have had meetings with the military leadership,” NTC spokesman Mahmud Shamman told AFP, as rebel fighters were readying a final push to secure the capital and continued to look for the elusive strongman.

“At least eight members have already arrived. All major posts are here,” including health, comunications, interior, justice, information and defence, he said.

Shammam, who said he had arrived by land from Tunisia, said, “We are preparing to move our council to Tripoli” from the rebel bastion in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Rebel chief Abdel Jalil said that countries that had helped the rebel cause would be rewarded accordingly.

“We promise to favour the countries which helped us, especially in the development of Libya. We will deal with them according to the support which they gave us,” he told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Beyond Tripoli, rebel commanders said they were also readying a new advance against forces defending Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte, 360 kilometres (225 miles) east of Tripoli and seeking to break a siege of Zuwarah, a town to the west.

British Defence Minister Liam Fox said NATO was helping the rebels with intelligence and reconnaissance to find Gaddafi, but the Western alliance denied his claim.

However, an AFP reporter discovered that French and British operatives are working with rebels as they press towards Sirte, amid unconfirmed reports British special forces SAS members were sent to Libya several weeks ago.

Rebel commanders said that while they control most of Tripoli, hot spots remain where sniper fire, rocket explosions and heavy weaponry make life dangerous.

Fighting is concentrated along the perimeters of Bab al-Aziziya and the neighbouring Abu Slim district, where Gaddafi reportedly released, armed and paid former prisoners to fight for his regime.

Hundreds of Libyan rebel fighters launched an attack on a Tripoli hideout of forces and snipers loyal to Gaddafi, an AFP TV reporter said.

More than 300 rebels armed with Kalashnikov, rocket launchers and assault rifles streamed into the Abu Slim district where they traded fire with loyalists and launched a house-to-house search.

“Today we are freeing Abu Slim,” and “Today we will conquer Abu Salim,” rebels yelled as they headed into battle.

Meanwhile, foreign workers prepared to be evacuated Thursday on the first International Organisation for Migration boat to dock in war-torn Tripoli.

The boat, which waited offshore for two nights for the security situation to improve as the battle for Tripoli raged, was due to take out Filipinos, Egyptians, Canadians, Algerians and Moroccans.

Martin Jerrett, IOM head of office in Benghazi from where the ship’s passengers will travel on to Cairo and elsewhere, said the ship aimed to spread the message that foreigners could get out.

The rebels are hell-bent on finding Gaddafi, so they can proclaim final victory in an uprising that began six months ago and was all but crushed by Gaddafi’s forces before NATO warplanes gave crucial air support to the rebels.

Rebel leaders say they want to put Gaddafi on trial even though he also faces charges of crimes against humanity along with his son Seif al-Islam and spymaster Abdullah al-Senussi at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

On Wednesday, the NTC offered a $1.7 million reward for the capture of Gaddafi, dead or alive, and amnesty to any members of his inner circle who kill or capture him.

Britain’s Defence Minister Liam Fox told Sky news that NATO is providing “intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC to help them track down Colonel Gaddafi and other remnants of the regime.”

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu denied that.

“No specific individual is a target as an individual, whether it’s Gaddafi or anybody else,” she told AFP in Brussels.

On the economic front, NTC number two Mahmud Jibril repeated calls for urgent financial help, a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Milan, .

“This is an urgent call upon our friends,” Jibril said, adding that the “biggest disabling element” for the NTC “would be the failure to deliver services and salaries” in the post-Gaddafi period.

On Wednesday, the NTC sought $5 billion in emergency aid from frozen assets at a meeting with foreign representatives from the Libya contact group in Qatar, a sum twice that announced by Jibril on Tuesday.

In Milan, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Rome would release next week 350 million euros ($504 million) in assets frozen in Italian banks.

But at the United Nations South Africa refused to lift a block on the United States unfreezing $1.5 billion of Libyan assets to buy humanitarian aid, setting up a diplomatic showdown at the Security Council.



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