For a while there it looked like the psychological warfare employed by rebel leaders was working to convince the people of Bani Walid to let anti-Gadhafi fighters enter the city peacefully.
Elders in the stronghold of the Warfallah, Libya's largest tribe, appeared to agree overnight to allow the rebel brigades to enter Bani Walid, but when those senior negotiators returned to town they were reportedly greeted by gunfire by pro-Gadhafi gunmen.
Since Sunday, the rebels have said an attack is imminent on the city where some people say Moammar Gadhafi, his son Saif and other regime officials. No one knows for sure where they are, however.
So far the rebels are playing a waiting game with the city of 50,000 people.
A massive rebel force is concentrating outside the city about 70 miles south of Tripoli, and when talks broke down over the weekend, the Transitional National Council revoked its self-imposed deadline for a decision by Bani Walid this coming Saturday. The rebels have played mind games with Bani Walid ever since.
A pro-Gadhafi column reportedly including Mansour Dao, the former commander of Libya's Revolutionary Guards and a cousin of Gadhafi, escaped to Niger. The U.S. demanded he and others who may be wanted be detained and returned to Libya.
"Apparently, a convoy has entered, and it does include some senior members of the Gadhafi regime, but we do not believe that (Moammar) Gadhafi himself was among them," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
"We have strongly urged the Nigerian officials to detain those members of the regime who may be subject to prosecution, to ensure that they confiscate any weapons that are found, and to ensure that any state property of the Government of Libya – money, jewels, et cetera – also be impounded so that it can be returned to the Libyan people," Nuland added.
More details are emerging of the fall of Tripoli and Operation Mermaid Dawn, a coordinated rebel and NATO land, sea and air attack that successfully toppled the Gadhafi regime, save for hoildouts Bani Walid, Sirte, Sabha and Jufra.
Gadhafi's caterer, Abdel Majid Mlegta, was the rebel spy inside the regime who detailed names and locations for NATO and recruited others for the cause, Reuters reports. The mole was a key to the alliance's coordinated attacks with the rebel ground forces.