Deadline set for Muammar Gaddafi loyalists to surrender expired on Saturday, as rebel commanders were assuring an attack on towns controlled by strongman’s forces would take place. Deadline set for Muammar Gaddafi loyalists to
Deadline set for Muammar Gaddafi loyalists to surrender expired on Saturday, as rebel commanders were assuring an attack on towns controlled by strongman’s forces would take place soon.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) set the deadline for towns still loyal to Kadhafi to surrender, and on-off talks have been going on for days over Bani Walid, , a Gaddafi stronghold southeast of Tripoli.
A number of former regime officials, including Gaddafi’s spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, were believed to be holed up there.
NTC forces were massing some 30 kilometers from Bani Walid. Fighters returning from the front reported clashes between NTC "sleeper cells" and pro-Gaddafi forces in and near the town overnight, and said they were reinforcing advance positions amid "fierce resistance" from diehards.
According to chief NTC negotiator Abdullah Kenshil, "the attack will take place, but its timing will be decided by military leaders on the ground."
On Friday, a top NTC commander said "decisive military action" was imminent.
"Up to now these negotiations did not lead to positive results," said Salem Jeha -- a highly influential member of Misrata's military council -- just hours ahead of the midnight deadline.
"If the negotiations fail then there will be decisive action, decisive military action," Jeha, a former colonel in Kadhafi's army, said from the NTC military headquarters in Misrata.
"But where this military action takes place that is a surprise. We are in position and we can move in any direction and this is our strength."
Meanwhile, distant artillery fire was heard on Bani Walid’s eastern front at Sedata some 60 kilometers south of Misrata.
NATO aircraft could also be heard overhead early on Saturday.
NTC CHIEF HEADS TO TRIPOLI
For his part, NTC Head Mustafa Abdel Jalil was flying on Saturday to Tripoli for his first visit since its fighters seized the capital, an AFP correspondent said.
Abdel Jalil said his visit to Tripoli from NTC headquarters in Benghazi was "temporary" and that the council he heads would be transferred to Tripoli "after the (full) liberation" of the country.