NTC's Jibril says Libyan 'battle not over'

NTC prime minister calls for unity at press conference in Tripoli, after rockets fired from besieged town of Bani Walid.

    On his first visit to Tripoli since the civil war, Libya's interim government chief has warned allies who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi not to start "political games" against each other until the toppled former leader's supporters are completely defeated.

    Mahmoud Jibril, the National Transitional Council's number two, told a news conference on Thursday "the battle of liberation is not finished".

    "Our biggest challenge is still ahead," Jibril said. "This is a stage where we have to unify and be together."

    Loyalists in Bani Walid, one of Gaddafi's last strongholds, who NTC negotiators have been trying to persuade to surrender for days, fired Grad rockets earlier on Thursday, hours after a TV station aired an audio message reportedly from Gaddafi urging his fighters on.

    At least 10 loud explosions could be heard along the desert frontline outside the town, about 140km southeast of Tripoli, following early morning skirmishes in the same area.

    Smoke billowed from the rockets after they landed in Wadi Dinar, about 20km outside the town, where thousands of fighters for Libya's new leadership have converged.

    According to NTC officials, the surrender negotiations inside Bani Walid have stalled and the NTC has given them until Saturday before its fighters move on the town.

    Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from near Bani Walid on Thursday, said there had been an apparent escalation of violence - including "four NATO airstrikes this morning" - although NATO could not confirm this.

    Our correspondent said fighters outside the city had been saying, "We must stay and wait ... until [NTC leaders] give us the go-ahead" to take the town from Gaddafi loyalists.

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

    'Red notice' for Gaddafi

    Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requested that Interpol issue a "red notice" to arrest Gaddafi for the alleged crimes against humanity of murder and persecution. 
    "Arresting Gaddafi is a matter of time," said Moreno-Ocampo, who is also requesting red notices for the arrest of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi's most influential sons, and Abdullah Al-Senussi, his former intelligence chief.

    Officials have said a number of prominent regime loyalists, including Gaddafi's son and one-time heir apparent, are believed to be inside Bani Walid.

    On Thursday morning, in a message broadcast on the Syria-based channel Al-Rai TV, Gaddafi denied rumours he had fled Libya, vowed never to leave the land of his ancestors and exhorted followers to keep fighting.

    The former Libyan leader, in power for nearly 42 years, has not been seen in public for months.

    But his message encouraged Libyans to take up arms against the fighters battling his loyalists and accused the National Transitional Council (NTC), currently running the country, of being a front for Western powers.

    "To all my beloved Libyans, the Libyan land is yours and you need to defend it against all those traitors, the dogs, those that have been in Libya and are trying to take over the land," Gaddafi said.

    "They were spies for the Italians and now they are spies for France. All those germs and rats ... capture all those who are working with NATO and the UK to bomb our country and kill Libyans and our children."

    Gaddafi also dismissed reports that he had fled to neighbouring Niger as "psychological warfare and lies".

    The president of Burkina Faso, the west African country which has also been touted as a possible refuge, has also denied that Gaddafi is in his country.

    High technology

    On the ground, Libyan fighters claimed on Wednesday to have Gaddafi surrounded within a 60km radius.

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

    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 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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