Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rebels Give Gadhafi Forces Saturday Deadline; NATO Planes Still Flying

The rebel government is giving Gadhafi loyalists in the dictator's hometown Sirte and other pockets of resistance around the country until Saturday to lay down their weapons, or else they will be taken by force.

Indications are that rebel fighters are already concentrating on the outskirts of Sirte, about 225 miles east of Tripoli, where many Libyans believe Moammar Gadhafi is hiding.

Rebels "have a good idea" where Gadhafi is, according to Ali Abdul Salaam Tarhouni, a Transitional National Council spokesman.

"We don’t have any doubt that we will catch him," Tarhouni said, stopping short of naming Sirte or elsewhere.

Sabha in southwestern Libya, another of the last remaining loyalist strongholds, is another city where some rebels suspect Gadhafi may be hiding.

Sky News quoted a trusted inside source who said he saw Moammar Gadhafi Friday at the Tripoli compound belonging to his son, Khamis, but he and others fled that location later that day.

The TNC issued its ultimatum today, warning Gadhafi forces they have until the end of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday to surrender or fight. Eid comes at the conclusion of the Ramadan month of fasting for the Islamic faith.

TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil said he hoped negotiations with Gadhafi loyalists would succeed and "avoid more bloodshed and to avoid more destruction and damage."

"It might have to be decided militarily," Jabril admitted. "I hope this will not be the case."

The NATO-Arab coalition signaled NATO airpower will be nearby, flying reconnaissance and combat missions.  

NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie confirmed NATO "will remain critically important until the Libyan civilian population is no longer under threat from the former regime."

"As recently as yesterday, our aircraft struck several surface-to-air threats and multiple military vehicles in the area of Sirte, which is considered the last bastion of the Gadhafi regime," Lavoie said today.

The TNC is also calling for neighboring Algeria to hand over members of Gadhafi’s family who fled there this week, including his wife, daughter, two sons and grandchildren. The rebel leaders want to the Gadhafi family to face potential charges in Libya.

The rebels claim 50,000 people have been killed in the Libyan revolution, CNN reported.

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