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Libyan NTC Fighters Pause in Battle for Key Town

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Rebels reinforcements from Tripoli goes through a checkpoint between Tarhouna and Bani Walid, towards the front in Bani Walid, Libya, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011.

Rebels reinforcements from Tripoli goes through a checkpoint between Tarhouna and Bani Walid, towards the front in Bani Walid, Libya, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011.

Fighters for Libya's provisional authorities say they have surrounded key areas still held by forces loyal to ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi. At a checkpoint north of Bani Walid, there appears to be a lull before any storm.

Forces loyal to the National Transitional Council are poised at this Gadhafi-held town south of the capital. There is confusion about what lies ahead: local commanders speak of deadlines both short and long, some passing without notice.

NTC fighter Renai Moqtar Renai, manning a checkpoint north of the town, says he's following the orders of his political leaders. He said the council has given the town more time - until next Saturday.

In the meantime, there have been on and off negotiations with tribal leaders in Bani Walid. Hopes are high there will be a peaceful resolution.

Mohamed Abdel Khadr lives outside Tarhouna, north of the flashpoint. He said there's been enough bloodshed, with a huge number of Libya's youth killed, both civilian and military.

The fighters at the checkpoints north of the town appear happy for this lull. After months of fighting, they're finally finding time to rest and pray. Some gather wood for a fire; they've bought a sheep, which will become a hearty meal.

But their appetite for battle is waning.

An adviser to the forces, who didn't want to give his name, explained the fighters have a personal stake in a peaceful outcome. He said most of the fighters are from Bani Walid, returning here to make sure they enter peacefully. He added they will only point guns at those who want to kill, and prays that as many lives as possible will be saved.

For fighters like Renai, as much as he'd like to see a surrender, he's ready if there's not one. He said they are waiting until Saturday. If nothing happens, they are ready to go in and fight.

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