Libya Rebels Give Ultimatum To Qaddafi Loyalists
Libya's rebels have given forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi until September 3 to surrender or face military force.
National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil told reporters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi that talks were under way with officials in Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte and other towns to arrange their surrender.
Jalil said that if "there are no clear peaceful indications" of Qaddafi loyalists surrendering to rebel forces, "we will act decisively to end this situation militarily," Jalil said. "We do not wish to do it, but we cannot wait any longer."
The announcement comes after Algeria said it had taken in Qaddafi's fleeing wife and three of his children, including Qaddafi's eldest son, Muhammad al-Qaddafi.
The Algerian Foreign Ministry said Qaddafi's second wife, Safia Farkash, had entered Algeria early on August 29 together with the embattled ruler's 34-year-old daughter, Ayesha, and his adult sons, Muhammad and Hannibal.
Algeria said it authorized their entry for "humanitarian reasons," while the NTC called the move an "act of aggression."
The AFP news agency quoted an unidentified Algerian Health Ministry official as saying one of the children, Ayesha, gave birth to a girl early on August 30.
The development threatens to create a diplomatic rift between Algeria and Tripoli just as the rebel National Transitional Council is working to consolidate its position as Libya's new government.
A spokesman for the council, Mahmud Shammam, said the new government in Tripoli would seek to extradite the Qaddafis.
"This is an act of aggression against the Libyan people and their wishes and aspirations. We will use all legal measures to extradite these criminals and put them on trial, regardless of anything else," Shammam said.
"We warn anyone who attempts to harbor Qaddafi or his family that in doing so, they will become an enemy of the Libyan people and the Libyan people will pursue them all over the world."
Qaddafi On The Run
The whereabouts of Qaddafi remains unknown. But unconfirmed reports, based on an account given by a 17-year-old bodyguard of his son Khamis, say Qaddafi had been in Tripoli as late as August 26 and fled from there to the southern desert town of Sabha.
Britain's Sky News says the bodyguard was captured in a battle that reportedly killed Khamis. It quotes the unnamed bodyguard as saying that he saw Qaddafi meet with Khamis at about 1:30 p.m. on August 26 within a compound in Tripoli that was under attack by rebel fighters at the time.
The bodyguard said Qaddafi was joined shortly after the meeting by his daughter Ayesha, and the two then drove off together in a Land Cruiser.
Along with Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, Sabha is one of the few remaining places in Libya where pro-Qaddafi troops are holding out against rebel forces.
Qaddafi's military controls a major air field at Sabha. From Sabha, there are desert routes that could allow relatively easy passage into the neighboring countries of Algeria, Niger, and Chad.
The bodyguard's account came as Libya's interim government announced a four-day deadline for forces loyal to Qaddafi in Sirte and Sabha to surrender or face military force.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said Libyan rebels intended to take over central and southern Libya as well as Sirte -- the last major bastion on the Mediterranean coast for pro-Qaddafi troops and tribal fighters.
The National Transitional Council wants Qaddafi and his offspring to face justice for years of repressive rule. They also fear that Qaddafi and his sons could orchestrate a new insurgency in Libya unless they are captured.
Shammam said the new Libyan government has heard that Algeria plans to harbor Qaddafi's wife and children until they can travel to another country. He said they were thought to be trying to reach "an East European country."
Obtaining the extradition of Qaddafi's family also is legally complicated because the Algerian government has not recognized the National Transitional Council as Libya's legitimate authority.
Council Chairman Jalil has called on Algeria to cooperate with it and hand over any of Qaddafi's sons on its wanted list.
Qaddafi, together with his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity,
Senior rebel officials say Senussi was killed on August 27 along with Qaddafi's son Khamis, the feared military commander of the Khamis Brigade.
Officials in Washington say the reports of Khamis's death could not be independently confirmed. Khamis has already been reported killed twice during Libya's uprising only to reemerge.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says he may apply for an arrest warrant for Khamis.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation says oil production could restart within weeks.
Nouri Berouin told Reuters that "starting up production will be within weeks, not months. After we start it will take less than 15 months" to reach full output.
The OPEC member was producing 1.6 million barrels per day before an uprising began in February, which caused foreign workers to flee and some oil fields and export terminals were damaged.
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|