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Qaddafi Issues New Call Of Defiance As Rebels Continue Hunt

25.08.2011 13:45


TRIPOLI -- Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has issued a fresh call of defiance as opposition fighters hunting for him have penetrated a pro-Qaddafi stronghold in the capital, Tripoli.

In a short recorded message broadcast on loyalist television, Qaddafi called on supporters to rise up and “purify” the city of "rats, crusaders, and unbelievers.”

"It is the time for martyrdom or victory," he said, calling tribes outside the capital to march to Tripoli. He said imams in mosques should call for youths to rise up "for jihad."

While Qaddafi’s whereabouts still remain unknown, there were suspicions from many locals that he and his family members could be hiding in the Abu Salim district of the capital -- one of the remaining areas of the city that they rebels do not control.

Those rumors were impossible to confirm.

Many loyalist fighters reportedly fled to the district when the rebels entered Tripoli overnight on August 21.

'Leading The Battle For Our Freedom'

Intense fighting is raging in the area on August 25, with The Associated Press reporting that some 1,000 opposition fighters surrounded 10 buildings where Qaddafi loyalists were holed up, hammering them with antiaircraft guns.

The AP also reported that it had received a phone call from Qaddafi government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, who said that Qaddafi is safe and “leading the battle for our freedom” alongside top military and political aides.

There were also reports on August 25 of heavy shooting around the Corinthia hotel in the center of the capital, with rebels firing at snipers loyal to Qaddafi in nearby buildings.

RFE/RL correspondent Jamie Kirchick reports from Tripoli that opposition fighters continue to stream into the capital from across Libya in their attempt to defeat Qaddafi's remaining forces there and flush him out, dead or alive.

"The situation here remains quite tense. There are countless checkpoints across the city -- rebel controlled checkpoints. We drove by this morning past the Qaddafi compound. The gates were open and there were people coming in and out. All of the guard towers were empty. Some of the walls were destroyed," Kirchick said.

"There was a roundabout next to the compound, across from the zoo [park], where there was clearly some sort of pro-Qaddafi encampment with lots of posters showing his face, and it was completely destroyed. Tents were broken and there was a lot of trash. We saw several freshly dead corpses on the ground. We saw a convoy of about 12 pickup trucks mounted with artillery cannons and with rebel forces near the zoo [park]."

On August 24, the head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, announced a $1.7 million bounty on Qaddafi’s head. He also promised amnesty to members of the ruler’s inner circle who kill or capture the elusive strongman.

Meanwhile, Britain’s defense minister said on August 25 that NATO is aiding the opposition in its search for Qaddafi. Liam Fox told Sky News that the alliance is contributing intelligence and reconnaissance equipment to the rebel forces.

However, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman says the U.S. military is not participating in a manhunt for Qaddafi, saying that the alliance’s mission is to protect civilians and not to target individuals.

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said only that NATO aircraft will continue their UN-mandated mission over Libya as long as Qaddafi loyalists pose a threat to civilians.

"The Qaddafi regime is finished. There is no way back for the Qaddafi regime, and clearly many of its key members are on the run. But there remain forces active [that are] loyal to the Qaddafi regime concentrated particularly in the south of Tripoli and around the city of Sirte, and as long as that remains the case and they remain a threat to the civilian population, then the NATO operations will continue," Hague said.

While the fighting continues in the capital, rebel head Jalil said that a number of NTC officials had already traveled there from the eastern stronghold of Benghazi. He also said some 20,000 people have been killed in the six-month drive to oust Qaddafi -- a claim that could not be immediately verified.

There are also signs that a major battle is brewing in Sirte, some 360 kilometers east of Tripoli, as opposition deployed heavy artillery and tanks toward the city.

Sirte is the birthplace of Muammar Qaddafi and one of the most important remaining strongholds for tribes and troops loyal to his regime.

Diplomatic Initiatives

The day also saw another flurry of activity related to Libya on the diplomatic front.

Opposition Prime Minister Mahmud Jibril held talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who said Rome was preparing to release $505 million in frozen Libyan assets.

The Libyan opposition says they urgently need at least $5 billion of frozen assets held in banks around the world to pay state salaries, maintain vital services and repair critical oil facilities.

International diplomats participating in a meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Istanbul on August 25 discussed how to facilitate the release of some $2.5 billion of assets. A statement released at the end of the meeting urged Qaddafi to turn himself in.

The UN Security Council is preparing to vote this week on a resolution that would allow for the release $1.5 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks.

Also, the Arab League gave its full backing to the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, joining dozens of nations to have done so.

written by Richard Solash in Washington with reporting by James Kirchick in Tripoli and agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/libya_qaddafi_securing_tripoli/24307460.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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