Libyan rebels have offered a million-dollar bounty for the capture of Muammar Gaddafi, after he urged his men to fight on in battles across parts of the capital, Tripoli.
Gaddafi’s location was still unknown on Thursday and rebels said they would offer amnesty and reward to anyone who kills or captures the 69-year-old Libyan leader.
In Benghazi, the National Transitional Council (NTC) told a news conference on Wednesday that Libyan businesspeople had contributed $1.7m for the cash reward.
But as a reminder that he remained on the loose, Gaddafi made an audio address broadcast earlier on Wednesday by the al-Rai television channel. In the address, the defiant leader called on Tripoli residents to repel the rebels’ advance.
“All Libyans must be present in Tripoli, young men, tribal men and women must sweep through Tripoli and comb it for traitors,” he said. “I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and … I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger.”
Al-Rai television channel quoted the Libyan leader as saying that he had retreated from his Tripoli compound in a “tactical move” after blaming NATO for 64 air strikes that reduced his compound to rubble.
“These gangs seek to destroy Tripoli,” Gaddafi said, referring to the rebels. “They are evil incarnate. We should fight them.”
Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who heads the NTC and was a minister in Gaddafi’s government until the February uprising against his rule, cautioned: “It is too early to say that the battle of Tripoli is over. That won’t happen until Gaddafi and his sons are captured.”
Reports had circulated of Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, being captured by the rebels but he made a defiant public appearance on Tuesday, smiling and shaking hands with supporters. The whereabout of five of Gaddafi’s other sons is unknown.
Rebels meet resistance
Meanwhile, fighters loyal to Gaddafi continued to put up stiff resistance in several Tripoli neighbourhoods early on Thursday, against rebels seeking to consolidate their grip over the capital, two days after they seized the Libyan leader’s heavily fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound.
Maram Wafa, a resident of Tripoli, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that rebels controlled the majority of the city but that there was still heavy fighting in pockets of the city.
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“I’m in contact with many of the freedom fighters, three or four hours ago there was fighting [with Gaddafi loyalists] one [of them] told me on the phone,” she said.
“The city is full of snipers, the streets are not safe, and everyone is staying indoors.”
According to Al Jazeera correspondents on Wednesday, snipers also posed a threat to rebel fighters in Bab al-Aziziya, even after the compound was overrun by rebels.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from inside the compound, said rebels were attempting to flush out snipers still inside the compound with heavy weaponry.
“We do think that the rebels really are in control of the majority of that compound, and are in control of the majority of this city, but at the moment all they can do is focus on these pockets of resistance,” she said.
“As soon as you say the word ‘sniper’, it puts fear into people; people can’t go about their businesses here. The streets are still pretty empty.”
Rebels say at least 400 of their men have been killed and 200 injured in the battle for Tripoli.
“The vast majority of the city is in opposition control, but it is still a very dangerous place,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Tripoli’s central hospital on Wednesday, said.
Bays said the central hospital is struggling to cope with the wounded and the staff is overwhelmed. Doctors gave Bays a long list of medical supplies they are in urgent need of.
‘Looking for Gaddafi’
Rebels fought their way into Gaddafi’s compound on Tuesday, using mortars, heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from Gaddafi’s battered compound
“We’re looking for Gaddafi now. We have to find him now,” said Sohaib Nefati, a rebel sitting against a wall with a machine gun.
Abdel-Aziz Shafiya, a 19-year-old rebel dressed in camouflage with a rocket-propelled grenade slung over one shoulder and a machine gun over the other, said the rebels believed Gaddafi was inside the compound but hiding underground.
“Wasn’t he the one who called us rats? Now he is the rat underground,” he said.
Abdelati Obeidi, the Libyan foreign minister, said Libya’s civil war was virtually over, in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News on Wednesday.
While Gaddafi has his back to the wall, the area of Sirte, his birthplace on the northern coast, and the town of Sabha in the south, reportedly still remain loyal to him.