9 September 2011

Libya: Gaddafi Loyalists, NTC Rebels Exchange Rocket Fire

MUAMMAR Gaddafi supporters and forces of Libya's new leaders traded deadly rocket fire yesterday in skirmishes that could be a prelude to all-out fighting over one of the ousted despot's last remaining strongholds.

Also yesterday, Interpol said it has issued its topmost wanted alert for the arrest of Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's ex-chief of military intelligence, all sought by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity.

Gaddafi hasn't been seen in public for months and went underground after anti- regime fighters swept into Tripoli on August 21. As the National Transitional Council (NTC) tries to establish its authority in Libya, speculation about Gaddafi's whereabouts has centered on his Mediterranean home- town of Sirte, southern Sabha, and Bani Walid, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

Gaddafi loyalists in all three towns have been given until Saturday to surrender, or face an all-out battle.

Friday, Gaddafi holdouts fired mortars and rockets from Bani Walid. Daw Salaheen, the chief commander for the anti-Gaddafi forces' operation at Bani Walid, said his fighters responded with their own rocket fire, and advanced on the town.

Despite the advance, 'the deadline is still tomorrow to enter Bani Walid,' Salaheen said.

One of Salaheen's fighters returning from the front line, Abdullah Warfali, said forces were about 6 kilometers (10 miles) from Bani Walid at one point, and that his group had lost one man and killed two Gaddafi loyalists in fighting Friday.

Anti-Gaddafi forces around Bani Walid unloaded hundreds of boxes of ammunition and ordinance and reinforcements in gunmounted trucks rushed toward the front line in the desert sand.

'Our men are preparing for an attack, probably tomorrow,' said Abdel-Razak al-Nazouri, a commander in the region.

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