Military official said Gaddafi had been tracked using high technology and human intelligence [GALLO/GETTY]

Libyan fighters are claiming to have surrounded Muammar Gaddafi within a 60km radius and insist it is matter of time before the toppled leader is captured or killed.

Anis Sharif, a spokesman for Tripoli's new military council, however would not say where exactly Gaddafi had been found.

But amid the continuing hunt for the fugitive leader and his sons, he said Gaddafi had been tracked using high technology and human intelligence. "He can't get out," he said on Wednesday.

Gaddafi, who was removed from power in August after an uprising against his rule, is believed to be travelling in a convoy of about 10 cars and may be using a tent as shelter, Hisham Buhagiar, who is co-ordinating the National Transitional Council's [NTC] efforts to find the former Libyan leader, said.

"It is the tent. We know that he does not want to stay in a house, so he stays in a tent. People say the cars came, and then they made a tent," Buhagiar said, adding that his sources had not seen Gaddafi themselves.

Talks stalled

Meanwhile, Libya's fighters are still working to gain full control of the country almost three weeks after the fall of the capital, Tripoli.

Fighters have been engaged in prolonged negotiations to convince representatives from Bani Walid, about 150km southeast of the capital Tripoli, that there would be no retributions if the town surrendered peacefully.


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But the representatives, upon returning to the town to deliver the message, were fired at and forced to retreat to NTC territory on Tuesday.

Thousands of NTC fighters have been camping outside Bani Walid, one of Gaddafi's last strongholds. They have also built a field hospital and deployed 10 volunteer doctors to prepare for the possibility of a fight.

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Tripoli, said: "The fighters are massing around Bani Walid in order to enter the town."

Abdullah Kinshil, NTC's chief negotiator in Bani Walid, said one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, was seen there with supporters on Tuesday.

Our correspondent said: "There are reports of Saif al-Islam's presence in Bani Walid rallying forces against the NTC."

"There are also reports of his brother Saadi's presence in the town. But the information have not been independently verified," he said.

Fighters are also preparing to move towards Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte.

For now, talks have been stalled and they are awaiting orders to take the towns from Gaddafi loyalists.

'On the run'

Amid the Libyan fighters' push to gain full control of this North African country, news came on Tuesday of convoys of Gaddafi loyalists, including his security chief, fleeing across the Sahara into Niger.

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The United States said it believed the convoy was carrying senior members of Gaddafi's entourage, and urged Niger to detain anyone liable for prosecution for alleged crimes committed during the uprising against the deposed Libyan leader.

Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, said Gaddafi was "on the run" but Washington said it had no reason to believe the fugitive leader had left Libya, something his spokesman Moussa Ibrahim confirmed.

"He is in Libya. He is safe, he is very healthy, in high morale," Ibrahim told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The convoy included officers from Libya's southern army battalions and pro-Gaddafi Tuareg fighters and is likely to have crossed from Libya into Algeria before entering Niger, sources said.

Abdou Labo, the Niger's minister of internal affairs, however, denied that a Libyan convoy had entered his country. But he confirmed that Niger had given asylum to Gaddafi's internal security chief Abdullah Mansoor on humanitarian grounds.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies