Libyan Rebels Prepare For Assault on Last Gaddafi Stronghold

Fighters of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) are getting ready to take over the city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown and one of the last remaining strongholds of the loyalists.

The NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil issued an ultimatum today, saying that the remaining Gaddafi fighters in Sirte and elsewhere have until Saturday to surrender. “By Saturday, if there are no peaceful indications for carrying this out we will decide this matter militarily,” he said. “We do not wish to do so but we cannot wait longer.”

Rebel forces are closing in on Sirte from all directions but a senior rebel commander  said that they will wait until Saturday with an attack. He estimated the NTC forces as about 4,000 strong against about 1,000 holding Sirte. The Gaddafi loyalists have called on the population to fight or die which makes it sound unlikely that a peaceful handover of the city can be negotiated.

Meanwhile the Algerian foreign ministry has confirmed that the wife and three children of the former Libyan dictator have arrived in Algeria. Gaddafi’s wife Safia, his daughter Aisha, and the sons Hannibal and Mohammed, accompanied by their children, have crossed the Algerian-Libyan border at 8:45 local time today.

A NTC spokesperson said that the Gaddafi-family is wanted for trials in Libya and demanded from Algeria to return the refugees. The official said that Algeria has issued them a pass to enter a third country.

The youngest Gaddafi-son, Khamis, was reportedly killed yesterday during a helicopter attack on his vehicle 80 kilometers south of Tripoli. Khamis Gaddafi was a russian-trained military officer commanding a battalion detached to protect his father. The battalion is  accused by Human Rights Watch to have summarily executed 153 detainees last week, part of them civilians. Other atrocities have also been blamed on the Khamis battalion.

The whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi himself are still unknown. A NATO spokesperson said yesterday that there are no indications that he left Libya. Rumor has it that Gaddafi is still in Tripoli, in his hometown Sirte or in a desert town south of the capital. A bounty of one million Euro is still on his head – dead or alive.

(Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters, Bloomberg; 30 August 2011)

About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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