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Kadhafi forces fight back, as reward offered for strongman

SAMAA | - Posted: Aug 24, 2011 | Last Updated: 10 years ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Aug 24, 2011 | Last Updated: 10 years ago

TRIPOLI: Fighting raged Wednesday as Mohammed Kahdafi's troops fought back near his Tripoli compound a day after it was captured, while rebels offered a $1.7 million reward for the elusive strongman, dead or alive.Meanwhile, international backers of the insurgency were moving to free up billions of dollars in frozen assets for them, with the United Nations calling a UN meeting to discuss the matter.Washington also announced that Libya's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction had been secured.And a group of 30 mostly foreign journalists who had been confined to Tripoli's Rixos Hotel were freed.Thick smoke hung over the Bab al-Aziziya complex, where rebels and Kadhafi forces were fighting in the afternoon with light arms, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars, an AFP reporter said.Fighting also spread to the nearby Abu Slim area, where loyalists were on the attack, in marked contrast to Tuesday's battle for Bab al-Aziziya when they fled as the rebels breached the gates.However, rebel commanders said they were determined to push the loyalist troops out of the area.Many streets were deserted, with commanders saying dozens of pro-Kadhafi snipers had taken up positions.”There are snipers above and around the perimeter of Bab al-Aziziya; there are dozens of them but we don't know where they are,” said a rebel chief, Nuri Mohammed.A rebel military spokesman speaking to Al-Jazeera television said “Libyan territory is 90 to 95 percent under the control of the rebellion.”Colonel Abdullah Abu Afra said “the fall of Bab al-Aziziyah marked the end of the Kadhafi regime in Tripoli and in Libya.”Rebels said they had found no trace of Kadhafi when they swarmed through his compound on Tuesday, and the whereabouts of him and his family remains a mystery.However, the former colonel broadcast a message early Wednesday on the website of a TV station headed by his son, Seif al-Islam.Kadhafi said he had abandoned his compound in a “tactical withdrawal” after it had been wrecked by NATO warplanes.”Bab al-Aziziya was nothing but a heap of rubble after it was the target of 64 NATO missiles and we withdrew from it for tactical reasons,” he said.In a later audio message on Syria-based Arrai Oruba television, Kadhafi boasted that he had taken to the streets of Tripoli without being recognised.”I walked incognito, without anyone seeing me, and I saw youths ready to defend their city,” he said, without specifying when he did his walkabout.He also urged “the residents, the tribes, the elderly to go into the streets… and cleanse Tripoli of rats” — referring to the rebels.Wherever he may be, the rebel National Transitional Council wants him, dead or alive, and has put a $1.7 million (1.2 million euro) price on his head.”The NTC supports the initiative of businessmen who are offering two million dinars for the capture of Moamer Kadhafi, dead or alive,” NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Benghazi.Abdel Jalil also offered amnesty to “members of (Kadhafi's) close circle who kill him or capture him.”Kadhafi spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told Arrai Oruba that more than 6,500 “volunteers” had arrived in Tripoli to fight for the regime, and called for more.Rebels who secured Tripoli's airport on Sunday said it was still under sporadic attack by Kadhafi fighters, with snipers along the road from the city, and that a rocket on Tuesday had damaged an airplane on the runway.Manager Arabi Mustafa said that once the security problems are resolved and water and electricity restored, the airport would be reopened.Elsewhere, rebels advancing towards Sirte were blocked Wednesday in the town of Bin Jawad as loyalists kept a stiff resistance.After taking Ras Lanuf, 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Sirte, the rebels had advanced up to Bin Jawad, but were stopped by heavy artillery fire, rebel commander Fawzi Bukatif told AFP.”Kadhafi's forces are still fighting, we are surprised. We thought they would surrender with the fall of Tripoli,” Bukatif said in the nearby coastal town of Zuwaytina.”Maybe something or somebody is behind them,” he said, adding “maybe” when asked if he was referring to Kadhafi or his sons.In other developments, the United States requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday to discuss a move to ease Libya sanctions so that $1.5 billion of aid can be sent.The council will meet from 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) to discuss a proposed US resolution on the sanctions. Western diplomats said the United States took the move to the council because South Africa had blocked an easing of restrictions at the UN sanctions committee.Britain and France had said they were already working to unfreeze Libyan assets blocked by Security Council sanctions.The United States first asked the committee for permission to send $1.5 billion of frozen assets to the NTC on August 8, a Western diplomat told AFP.The US administration responded to questions from other nations but South Africa has continued to block the move, the diplomat added.”Now it is urgent. This money is needed for fuel for generators in hospitals, desalination plants and other facilities where it could run out in days,” said the diplomat.If South Africa maintains its opposition after the consultations on Wednesday, the United States will press for a full Security Council vote on easing sanctions on Thursday or Friday, the diplomat said.For its part, the Pentagon said Libya's stockpile of chemical weapons are “secure” but that an arsenal of thousands of shoulder-launched missiles remained cause for concern.Asked if sites containing chemical weapons, including over 10 tons of mustard gas, were safe, spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said: “Yes.”But he declined to offer more details, only saying that “clearly those are dangerous agents and weapons… we continue to monitor that.”The journalists in Tripoli, who were growing short of food and water after being held in the Rixos Hotel since early Monday, left there around 1 pm (1500 GMT), they reported.”The crisis is over. The journalists are out,” one of them announced on Twitter.The circumstances of their release were not immediately known, but an AFP reporter said they had moved to the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in a safer part of the city. AGENCIES

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