Red notices were also issued for spy chief Abdullah Senussi [left] and Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [centre]

Interpol has issued a red notice - its highest arrest alert - for Muammar Gaddafi as the hunt for the former Libyan leader intensifies.

The France-based international police organisation said it had issued the notice in collaboration with Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) where Gaddafi is accused of crimes against humanity.

Notices were also issued for Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and Abdullah Senussi, his former director of military intelligence, who have also been indicted by the ICC.

"The Red Notices have been circulated to all of Interpol's 188 members and include essential identifying and judicial information," the organisation said.

Interpol said the issue of the notices was also the first step towards its formally recognising Libya's National Transitional Council [NTC] as the country's formal government. 

"Interpol will co-operate with and assist the ICC and Libyan authorities represented by the Interim Transitional National Council of Libya to apprehend Muammar Gaddafi," Ronald Nobel, Interpol's secretary-general, said.

Interpol's move followed a request for the red notice from Moreno-Ocampo. It means that the three men are now considered among the world's most wanted fugitives.

"Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo's request for Interpol red notices will significantly restrict the ability of all three men to cross international borders and is a powerful tool to help in their location and arrest," Noble said.

Moreno-Ocampo said the issuing of the alert meant that Gaddafi's arrest was a "matter of time" and ensured that the warrant for his arrest was in the hands of law enforcement agencies around the world.

Gaddafi officials enter Niger

Meanwhile, a group of 14 Gaddafi officials, including General Ali Kana, a Tuareg who was one of Gaddafi's close aides, have crossed into Niger's northern city of Agadez, according to security sources quoted by Reuters.

Two sources said the group included four top officials, amongst them two generals. The identity of the other general has not been confirmed.

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"The group arrived in four four-wheel-drive vehicles on Thursday afternoon," one of the sources said, adding that they were accompanied by Nigerien security forces.

Niger's government has not commented on the reports.

The arrival of the group follows that of Mansour Dhao, the head of Gaddafi's security brigades, who crossed into Niger in a convoy on Monday.

Niger has said it had allowed the Libyans into its territory on humanitarian grounds, but has come under pressure from the international community to hand over former Gaddafi officials suspected of human rights abuses.

'Million march' in Tripoli

Amid the massing of Libyan fighters around the last remaining strongholds of Gaddafi, upto a million people are reportedly holding march in the capital, Tripoli.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Tripoli, said: "Today is the second Friday prayer at martyr square since the fall of Tripoli, and the Imam will offer sermon about new Libya and the new found freedom in country."

"He will reiterate message of Mahmoud Jibril that Libyans have to show unity," he said.

"One of the biggest rally is being organised today with upto one million people expected to march in Tripoli. Thousands of people have swarmed the martyr square to celebrate the new era."

Gaddafi's loyalists in the town of Bani Walid and further east in the toppled leader's hometown of Sirte have been given until Saturday to surrender.

Five NTC fighters were killed on Thursday as they tried to move in the few small towns where Gaddafi supporters are holed up.

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Fighters inched forward to about 5km outside Bani Walid late on Thursday, with NATO planes monitoring the advance from the sky, Reuters reported.

Residents fleeing Bani Walid, a desert town 150km south of Tripoli, said Gaddafi loyalists were intimidating people and supplies were low.

The Al Jazeera correspondent said: "On the record, the officials here say 'we are willing to extend deadline to show we are here to offer forgiveness and mercy and we are not after revenge'."

"However, off the record, everybody is concerned about the tribal affiliations. They are trying to sort out tribal problems particularly in Bani Walid and Sirte, and offer a peaceful resolution as a way out of the problems," he said.

"Otherwise we are having very strong military commanders here, who are saying we will wait for today and if people of Bani Walid do not surrender we will just go ahead."

Jibril, the man who is now effectively Libya's prime minister, told reporters on Thursday that the war for Libya was not yet over.

"The greater challenge is still there. The first challenge is to achieve a sort of victory over ourselves. The second challenge is to be able to be tolerant and to forgive and to go forward towards the future,” said Jibri, speaking in Tripoli for the first time since NTC forces seized the capital.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies