Rebels gear for Gaddafi KO

2011-08-25 07:06

Tripoli – Hardened fighters have streamed into Tripoli as Libya’s rebels seek to deliver a knockout punch to Muammar Gaddafi’s remaining forces and to flush out the strongman, dead or alive.

Leading the army of reinforcements today were seasoned combatants from the city of Misrata, whose fellow fighters spearheaded the weekend assault that saw the Libyan capital swiftly overrun and Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound captured by Tuesday.

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

The rebels are also hellbent on finding Gaddafi, so they can proclaim a 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 in Libya 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 (ICC).

The rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) yesterday offered a $1.7-million (R12.3-million) reward for the capture of the elusive strongman, dead or alive.

“The NTC supports the initiative of businessmen who are offering two million dinars for the capture of Muammar Gaddafi, dead or alive,” NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in the rebel capital Benghazi.

Jalil also offered amnesty to “members of (Gaddafi’s) close circle who kill him or capture him”.

The 69-year-old Gaddafi has not been seen in public for weeks and despite losing control of the oil-rich North African country he ruled with an iron first for 42 years, he is still managing to broadcast messages urging Libyans to drive out the “rats” – as he disparagingly calls the rebels.

He also claimed yesterday to have walked incognito on the streets of Tripoli without being recognised.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts were launched at the United Nations and in Qatar by backers of the insurgents to secure the unlocking of billions of dollars of Libyan assets for the rebels.

Washington for its part said Libya’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction had been secured and that it was confident the NTC could set up governing structures after overrunning Tripoli.

A group of mostly foreign journalists who had been confined to Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel by pro-Gaddafi hardliners were freed but other loyalists kidnapped four Italian journalists near the capital, and two French journalists were wounded by stray gunfire at the compound but were recovering.

The rebels also made key diplomatic gains when two of Gaddafi’s staunchest African allies – Chad and Burkina Faso – said they recognise the NTC as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

A rebel military spokesperson told Al-Jazeera television that “Libyan territory is 90 to 95% under the control of the rebellion”.

Colonel Abdullah Abu Afra said “the fall of Bab al-Aziziya marked the end of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli and in Libya” after 42 years in power.

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