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Battles Loom for Key Gadhafi Outposts

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Anti-Gaddafi forces' armored personnel carrier advances to the front line at Teassain area, 90 km (56 miles) east of Sirte, amid heavy shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces, September 9, 2011.

Anti-Gaddafi forces' armored personnel carrier advances to the front line at Teassain area, 90 km (56 miles) east of Sirte, amid heavy shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces, September 9, 2011.

Libya's provisional military leaders have sent reinforcements to towns still held by forces loyal to deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi, ahead of a Saturday deadline for the loyalists to surrender. Our correspondent reports from Tripoli that international pressure on Gadhafi has also increased, with Interpol issuing a warrant for his arrest.

Anti-Gadhafi fighters skirmished with his supporters Friday near Bani Walid and Sirte, two of the last towns held by loyalist forces. Gadhafi's supporters fired Grad rockets at forces for the National Transitional Council near Bani Walid, while NATO aircraft struck a Gadhafi weapons depot near the town.

An NTC fighter said his side has moved substantially on Bani Walid in the past 24 hours.

He added that anti-Gadhafi forces are now about 15 kilometers from the town.

NTC forces also continued to advance on Sirte, the last major coastal city still held by Gadhafi's supporters. As in Bani Walid, they are also reported to be facing resistance.

Chances for a peaceful surrender appeared increasingly slim Friday. But NTC political leaders have said they want to avoid military action that could harm Libyan civilians.

Also Friday, Interpol issued a warrant for Gadhafi on charges of war crimes. Red notices, the international police group's most serious, were also issued for his son, Seif al Islam Gadhafi and his security chief Abdullah el Senussi.

Interpol, acting on a request from the International Criminal Court, urged member countries to comply with the warrant, should any of the suspects leave Libya. Niger, Libya's neighbor to the south, is an Interpol member.

The Reuters news agency Friday reported that 14 high ranking Gadhafi loyalists had crossed into Niger, although the ICC suspects are not believed to be among them. Other supporters of the ousted leader were reported to have entered Niger earlier in the week.

Gadhafi, who has been in hiding since opponents seized the capital last month, insisted in an audio message Thursday that he remained in Libya.

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