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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Libyan Rebels Continue Holding Tripoli

August 24, 2011

Elizabeth Arrott | Zintan, Libya

Anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya are consolidating their hold on the capital and other parts of the country even as pro-Gadhafi fighters put up fierce resistance. Recent developments have given many Libyans who had fled the fighting hope that it is safe to return home.

Libya's opposition has offered a $1.67 million reward for Mr. Gadhafi's capture in hopes of putting an end to the fighting in the north African country.

Transitional National Council ((TNC)) leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Wednesday his opposition group supports a decision by local businessmen to provide the reward in an attempt to speed up Mr. Gadhafi's capture.

Opposition forces now claim to control 90 percent of Libya, but their ultimate prize, the capture of Moammar Gadhafi, remains elusive.

Pro-Gadhafi forces fired mortar rounds into the now-rebel held Bab al-Aziziya compound, Colonel Gadhafi's former Tripoli headquarters. Opposition leaders say thei forces have arrested several government fighters still inside the complex , but that there was no sign of any members of the Gadhafi family.

Heavy fighting continued Wednesday around Tripoli's airport, which the opposition says is in its hands. Several rockets hit the airport tarmac and the fighting delayed plans to re-open the facility.

The opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) it is moving some of its ministries from Benghazi in the east, to the capital. The TNC head, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, also announced that elections will be held in eight months.

And speaking of what he hoped would be Gadhafi's eventual capture, Jalil said the council wants him tried in Libya, not sent to the International Criminal Court in Holland.

Colonel Gadhafi is wanted by the ICC on war crimes charges. An international trial was initially welcomed by the rebel council and by TNC allies as a way to avoid acts of revenge.

Western powers continue to call on both sides to show restraint and act in a spirit of reconciliation. But there was no such sentiment from Gadhafi.

An audio message said to be from Gadhafi called on the residents of Tripoli to clear the city of what he called criminals, traitors and rats. His spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, also struck a defiant tone, saying the "traitors" would face a "volcano of lava."

But the mood in western Libya indicates most here consider the Gadhafi era over. Families who had fled the fighting began returning to their homes in areas closer to Tripoli, with children hanging out of car windows waving the rebel flag. The region, from which rebels launched their lightening strike against the capital over the weekend, is now trying to right itself after six months of conflict.

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