Rebels set to root out Gaddafi diehards

2011-08-25 10:51
Tripoli - Rebel forces began to purge Tripoli's streets of gunmen still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday in the final phase of the battle for the Libyan capital.

Rebels said they were confident they could mop up diehard soldiers clinging to a leader now on the run, presumed to be in hiding in the country he ruled for four decades.

"The end will only come when he's captured, dead or alive," said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), who offered amnesty to any of Gaddafi's entourage who killed him and announced a reward worth more than $1m for his capture.

Britain said Nato was giving intelligence and reconnaissance assistance to rebels hunting Gaddafi and his sons.

Libya's new masters meet their Western backers in Turkey on Thursday to secure funds and make plans for a future without Gaddafi after they announced a million dollar bounty for his capture.

After rebel forces overran his Tripoli headquarters and trashed symbols of his 42-year rule, scattered pockets of loyalist diehards kept the opposition fighters at bay. Rebels also reported fighting deep in the desert and a standoff around Gaddafi's tribal home town.

In Tripoli, rockets and shooting kept largely kept civilians indoors and gunfire rang out in the centre. Most were anxious but hopeful the war would soon end, and with it the worsening shortages of food, water and medical supplies - both for hundreds of wounded and for the sick.

Jalil has said rebel forces will halt their offensive if Gaddafi announces his departure and give him and his sons safe passage out of the country.

There was no clear indication of where Gaddafi is, though his opponents surmised he was still in or around Tripoli after what Gaddafi himself described as a "tactical" withdrawal from his Bab al-Aziziya compound before it was captured on Tuesday.

But Western leaders and the rebel government-in-waiting have lost no time readying a handover of Libya's substantial foreign assets. Funds will be required to bring relief to war-battered towns and develop oil reserves that can make Libya rich.

After talks with Arab and Western allies in Qatar on Wednesday, a senior rebel leader said the NTC would seek to have $5bn in frozen assets released to jump-start the country's economy and provide vital relief to its citizens. The amount is higher than a previously given estimate of $2.5bn.

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