New fighting may erupt in Libya

2011-08-31 10:13
Tripoli/Benghazi - Loyal followers of Muammar Gaddafi are refusing to surrender to those who have forced him into hiding, raising the prospect of new fighting in Libya when an ultimatum expires after this week's Eid holiday.

The new ruling council, keen to consolidate its grip and relieve hardship after six months of war, won a $1.55bn cash injection when the UN Sanctions Committee released banknotes in Britain in frozen accounts once controlled by Gaddafi. The new leaders said Libya may start pumping oil again in days.

In the capital's newly renamed Martyrs' Square, hundreds of people gathered for morning prayers to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, delighted at Gaddafi's downfall.

"It is the most beautiful prayers. We are filled with joy, Gaddafi made us hate our lives ... We come here to express our joy at the end of 42 years of repression and deprivation," said Hatem Gureish, 31, a merchant from Tripoli.

"This is the most beautiful Eid and most beautiful day in 42 years," he said.

Security was tight at the square where Gaddafi had been due to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the coup that brought him to power on September 01. Sniffer dogs checked worshippers and armed men stood on rooftops to guard against an attack by Gaddafi loyalists.

"There may be some pockets of Gaddafi forces but generally the capital is secure," interim interior minister Ahmad Darat told Reuters. "We have created a security team to manage the crisis and preserve security in the capital."

A day of freedom


"This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It is as if I own the world," said Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador. "I'm glad I haven't given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya."

On the front lines of a pincer thrust toward Gaddafi's coastal bastion of Sirte - one of several places, including Tripoli, where his enemies think he may have taken refuge - fighters for the interim ruling council paused, observing an effective ceasefire announced by their leaders until Saturday.

Nato warplanes have been bombing Gaddafi forces near Sirte, and the alliance has assured its Libyan allies that it will keep up its military drive from the air for an end to the conflict - something the council leadership says will only be secured once Gaddafi is found, "dead or alive".

Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who as Gaddafi's justice minister until turning against him this year has had ample opportunity to observe the survival instincts of one of the world's longest ruling autocrats, warned again on Tuesday:

"Muammar Gaddafi is not finished yet."

"He still poses a threat to Libyans and the revolution. He still has pockets of support in Libya and supporters outside Libya, both individuals and countries," Abdel Jalil said in the council's eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

In the Sahara far south of Sirte, the town of Sabha is among those where the writ of the ruling council does not run.

It was across the desert that Gaddafi's wife and three of his children fled into Algeria. They arrived just in time for his daughter Aisha to give birth at the oasis of Djanet on Tuesday, according to Algerian officials who tried to soothe Libyan anger by insisting they granted refuge to the Gaddafis out of concern for the expectant mother and in the traditions of hospitality entrenched in local nomadic culture.

Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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