Gaddafi loyalist bastion on brink

Rebel troops have started closing in on one of Colonel Gaddafi’s last strongholds, despite earlier assurances from the head of the rebel National Transitional Council that they would give loyalist cities a week to surrender.

The rebels have begun encircling the city of Bani Walid. They are demanding that Colonel Gaddafi loyalists surrender, otherwise they will attack, the BBC reports.­

A spokesman for Libya’s interim government said on Saturday that rebel forces camped outside Bani Walid, a loyalist stronghold some 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, are losing patience and will attack soon. Similar impatience was detected among rebels near Sirte, Colonel Gaddafi’s hometown.

On Sunday, rebel forces claimed talks with loyalists holding Bani Walid have collapsed, and the rebels are now poised to launch an assault later on Sunday. A rebel commander, Mohammed al-Fassi, said “the negotiations are over.” 

It is reported that thousands of rebel fighters are surrounding Bani Walid, with the front line about 10 miles from the town center.

“In a few hours we will enter, we will be in Bani Walid,” local military spokesman Mahmoud Abdul Aziz was quoted by Reuters as saying. 

Earlier, rebel officials gave conflicting statements on where they believe Gaddafi might be hiding. Bani Walid, Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and the loyalist town of Sabha, deep in the Libyan desert, were all mentioned.

The Head of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC,) Mostafa Abdel Jalil, announced during a press conference in Benghazi that cities loyal to the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, had one week to surrender, the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV channel reported on Saturday. He added that “this notice does not mean we are not aware of what Muammar Gaddafi ‘s loyalists are doing.”

NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil earlier stated the hunt for Gaddafi would not stop until the former Libyan leader is caught, adding that his capture is essential before the conflict can be considered to be at an end.

However Muammar Gaddafi’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, dismissed all suggestions early on Saturday that one of the Colonel’s last strongholds was about to capitulate to the rebels.

The former Libyan leader has been in hiding since the fall of Tripoli in late August. Since then, rebels have gained ground in several major towns, including Bani Walid, and now control most of the country.

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