Jalil makes 1st public speech in Tripoli

2011-09-13 10:45

Ras Lanuf/Tripoli - Libya's interim leader has made his first public speech in Tripoli, warning against reprisals after loyalists of ousted Muammar Gaddafi struck out at the revolutionaries pursuing them.

In an apparent attempt to disrupt a drive by the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) to seize the ousted leader's last bastions and revive the oil-based economy, the pro-Gaddafi fighters killed 15 guards at an oil refinery on Monday.

Despite the attack, NTC Chairperson Mustafa Abdel Jalil, felt confident enough to address a crowd of about 10 000 people and used the speech to call for restraint.

"We seek a state of law, prosperity and one where sharia [Islamic law] is the main source for legislation, and this requires many things and conditions," he said, adding that "extremist ideology" would not be tolerated.

A Syrian-based television station said it would soon broadcast another message from the fugitive Gaddafi, who has issued regular battle calls to his followers in the three weeks since Tripoli was overrun.

Witnesses to the refinery attack said the assailants damaged the front gate of the facility, 20km from the coastal town of Ras Lanuf, but not the plant itself, which is not fully operational.

Refinery worker Ramadan Abdel Qader, who had been shot in the foot, told Reuters that gunmen in 14 or 15 trucks had come from the direction of the Gaddafi-held coastal city of Sirte.

The assault occurred only hours after the NTC announced it had resumed some oil production, which had been all but halted since anti-Gaddafi protests turned into civil war in March.

The interim council is struggling to assert its control over the entire country and capture a handful of stubbornly defended pro-Gaddafi towns.

Human rights group Amnesty International warned on Tuesday that the security vacuum risked sending Libya spiralling into a bloody cycle of attacks and reprisals.

Abdel Jalil used his first public Tripoli speech to warn NTC forces against reprisals.

"We need to open the courts to anyone who harmed the Libyan people in any way. The judicial system will decide," he said, calling on NTC fighters to respect that.

Gaddafi clan hunted

Many senior NTC officials also see scooping up Gaddafi and the members of his family who are still on the run as crucial to finally declaring victory in the seven-month old war.

Gaddafi's son Saadi arrived in neighbouring Niger on Sunday after crossing the remote Sahara desert frontier. On Monday the US State Department said that the government of Niger had confirmed to it that it intended to detain the former soccer player.

But a Nigerien government spokesperson told Reuters that Saadi Gaddafi was only being watched for now.

"Nothing has changed in the government's position. There is no international search for him. Like the others he is just under surveillance," the spokesman said, referring to other Gaddadfi loyalists who have recently fled to Niger.

Two other sons and Gaddafi's only biological daughter have fled to Algeria. One son is reported to have died in the war and three others are still on the run.

The NTC has said it will send a delegation to Niger to seek the return of anyone wanted for crimes.

Niger, like Algeria, has cited humanitarian reasons for accepting fugitives of the former government, but has promised to respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court, which wants to try Gaddafi, son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for war crimes.