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Libyan Revolution Fighters Control Ras Judair Border Crossing with Tunisia, Prepare to Enter Sirt

Auguest 27, 2011

Libyan rebels fight for control of border road


Associated Press, August 27, 2011,11:06 AM EDT

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) --

Libyan rebels fought Saturday for control of a major supply road to the capital, seizing a border crossing with Tunisia and strengthening their hold on the oil-rich country as they hunt for Mu'ammar Qadhafi.

Controlling the road from the Tunisian border to Tripoli would help ease growing shortages of fuel and food, particularly in the battle-scarred capital. Mahmoud Shammam, information minister in the rebels' transitional council, said the rebels already control most of the road, but that regime fighters are shelling it in the area of the city of Zwara, midway between Tripoli and the Tunisian border. Rebels had captured the border crossing known as Ras Judair, the gateway to the road to Tripoli.

"We hope to be able to control the road today," he told reporters.

In Qadhafi's hometown of Sirt (incorrectly written in the media as Sirte), one of the regime's remaining bastions, rebels are trying to negotiate a surrender with the loyalists who still control the town, Shammam said. "We don't want more bloodshed, and we had a very good response," he said, adding that he hoped the standoff would be resolved very soon.

However, Fadlullah Haron, a rebel commander from the eastern city of Benghazi, said the talks had failed and opposition forces were positioned to the east of Sirte in Bin Jawwad waiting for NATO to carry out more airstrikes to destroy Scud missile launching sites and suspected arms depots.

"The anti-Qadhafi tribes have told us that it is no use. Tribes loyal to Gadhafi and Gadhafi forces have refused to surrender," he said. "What we fear that most is chemical weapons and the long-range missiles."

Shammam insisted the for Qadhafi was continuing, but would not delay efforts to set up a new administration.

"Qadhafi for us is finished," he said. "He has escaped, he is running from place to place. Of course, we want to get Qadhafi. We are following him. We are going to find him, but we are not going to wait for everything to find Gadhafi and his son."

The Egyptian news agency MENA, quoting unidentified rebel fighters, reported from Tripoli that six armored Mercedes sedans had crossed the border at the southwestern Libyan town of Ghadamis into Algeria.

The report said the cars could be carrying top figures from the Qadhafi regime, possibly even his sons. Rebels in the area were unable to pursue the cars because they don't have ammunition or the necessary equipment, MENA said. The report could not be independently confirmed.

In Tripoli, the son of Libya's once-powerful intelligence chief came into the city's Al-Afia hospital to ask for treatment for 20 of his loyalist fighters, said a physician there, Fawzi Addala.

Addala said he vaguely recognized the commander, but had to ask why he looked so familiar.

"He told me: 'I am a dead man - I'm Abdullah Senoussi's son,'" Addala told the Associated Press.

Mohammed Senoussi's brigade had been shelling Tripoli's airport earlier this week, but had to flee the rebel advance. The doctor said the younger Senoussi and his fighters were clearly exhausted, and some asked for medication to keep them awake.

"He told me: 'I am defending my father, not the regime, because I know what the regime is all about'" the doctor said.

"Mohammed was very polite, asked for a cigarette and water and looked defeated," said Addala.

Senoussi's father is Abdullah al-Senoussi, a top aide to Qadhafi and intelligence chief.

Rebels claimed victory over the suburb of Qasr bin Ghashir, near Tripoli's airport, Saturday after an overnight battle. Residents celebrated by firing guns and anti-aircraft weapons into the air and beating portraits of the toppled leader with their shoes. Regime troops had been shelling the airport from the area.

"You can say that bin Ghashir has been liberated from Qadhafi soldiers," said Omar al-Ghuzayl, a 45-year-old rebel field commander now in charge of forces at Tripoli's airport. "We've been able to push them completely outside Tripoli."

The celebration reflected the rebels' optimism after days of fierce fighting in the capital, which Shammam said is largely under rebel control, except for small pockets of resistance.

While fighting has died down in the city, life remains very difficult. Much of the capital is without electricity and water. Streets are strewn with torched cars and stinking garbage. Corpses crowd abandoned hospitals. Stores are closed. Bombed planes sit on the Tripoli's airport's tarmac.

Looking toward reconciliation efforts, Shammam also reiterated Saturday that those who worked in the Qadhafi regime but were not involved in killing or oppressing regime critics would be able to work in the new administration.

In the western city of Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, a manager for the key oil refinery there said officials hoped to have it operational soon.

Restarting the rebel-held refinery, which was shut down after Libya's rebellion flared, should help ease skyrocketing fuel prices.

Mohammed Aziz, a longtime operations manager, said it should be working by Monday.

In Tripoli, the cost of a 20-liter (about five-gallon) can of gas has jumped to about 120 dinars ($100) - 28 times the price before fighting broke.


Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Tripoli and Rami al-Shaheibi in Benghazi contributed to this report.

Where is Muammar Gaddafi?

August 27, 2011

By FRANCE 24 (text)

The storming of Gaddafi’s compound Tuesday was a symbolic event in the anti-regime uprising. But for anti-Gaddafi fighters, the hunt for the fugitive Libyan leader is just beginning, and the possibilities of where he might be found are numerous.

Just a few days after the storming of Muammar Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, anti-Gaddafi fighters are still trying to track down the fugitive Libyan leader.

In an audio message broadcast on state radio on Wednesday, Gaddafi said he had been walking the streets of the capital in disguise. But after 48 hours of tireless searching, the hypothesis that Gaddafi has fled Tripoli entirely is being taken more and more seriously.

In pictures: The fight for Abu Salim, Tripoli, August 25

According to most experts, Gaddafi is still in Libya. Roland Jacquard, president of the Paris-based International Observatory on Terrorism, told FRANCE 24 that indeed Gaddafi could not have left the country. “Wiretaps intercepted by Western intelligence services in the region indicate that Gaddafi is still in Libya,” Jacquard explained. “His head of personal security was in charge of finding him a certain number of hiding places in a wartime scenario.”

Sirte, a temporary hideout

The vast Libyan territory harbours several potential shelters for Gaddafi. Abdellah Ben Ali, international political correspondent for FRANCE 24, explained that Gaddafi could be hiding in Tripoli in one of numerous underground spots near his residence. This network of hiding places constructed under the former leader’s compound is said to consist of at least 50 kilometres of secret passageways.

Still, even if Gaddafi insists he is still in Tripoli, the hunt for him is covering the entire country. The city of Sirte, the last bastion of regime loyalists and the fugitive leader’s hometown, is seen as a temporary hideout option for Gaddafi.

But that could be no more than a short-term solution, as anti-regime forces are converging near the city and affirm that it is only a matter of time before they take it over, explained Abdellah Ben Ali. “There’s this probability that he would go to Sirte, but since the city is surrounded, his fate would be sealed. It would be suicidal for him to go there,” Ben Ali said. “So the most probable scenario is that Gaddafi heads south, into the Sabha area, where members of his tribe can offer him shelter.”

A promised land in the South?

The Sabha scenario is widely seen as the most plausible, and has been almost unanimously cited by analysts. “There are several possibilities [for Gaddafi] in the south of the country. Today, many people are talking about the Katroun zone in the southern-most part of the Sahara, where he already hid out in 1986 after the US bombings,” Roland Jacquard said. “And possibly Houn, too. It’s a city located halfway between the coast and the desert, and Gaddafi’s tribe is there.”

If Gaddafi opts for the southern-most part of Libya, he could also find new allies to help him. The former leader has a reputation as being resourceful, and he has maintained peaceful relations with the nomadic Tuareg people in the Sahara.

But even those advantages are fading. Certain Tuaregs have already been in contact with anti-Gaddafi fighters, especially in the Fezzan region (where Sabha is situated). And, as Jacquard pointed out, the reward offered by the National Transition Council (1.7 million dollars and amnesty for whomever offers up Gaddafi) “can expedite his capture, because today there are people in his entourage, particularly in the former Republican Guard, who may be tempted by this kind of compensation”.

The possibility of exile

If Gaddafi feels the end nearing, he could pursue a final option: exile. By taking advantage of Libya’s unsecured desert borders in the south, he could make it into Chad, Niger, or Algeria.

Algeria, in particular, could be a viable option for him, as the Libyan opposition has already accused Algerian authorities of supporting Gaddafi even as his country has turned against him. Up until Gaddafi’s compound fell to anti-regime fighters, other analysts had mentioned the possibility of his fleeing by airplane to South Africa or Venezuela. Those hypotheses have since been abandoned.

But nearly all experts agree that any solution is temporary at best. As Sylvain Attal, FRANCE 24’s international politics specialist, concluded: “Everything will ultimately depend on the complicated power dynamics between the new Libyan administration and these tribes. But even if it’s a question of time, it’s too important for the new Libya not to capture and judge Gaddafi. Getting Gaddafi is key to the complete collapse of his regime.”

LIBYA Libya's NTC transfers leadership to Tripoli

LIBYA Gaddafi urges resistance as manhunt continues

DIPLOMACY Arab League recognises Libya’s NTC

Date created : 26/08/2011

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