News / Africa

Libya's Anti-Gadhafi Forces Set Deadline For Loyalist Surrender

An anti-Gaddafi fighter walks next to a swimming pool in a house belonging to Moammar Gadhafi's son Hannibal, in Tripoli, August 30, 2011
An anti-Gaddafi fighter walks next to a swimming pool in a house belonging to Moammar Gadhafi's son Hannibal, in Tripoli, August 30, 2011

Libya's provisional authorities have announced a four-day deadline for forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in his hometown of Sirte to surrender.

National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said his forces will initiate military action in Sirte if pro-Gadhafi troops do not complete negotiations and surrender by Saturday - one day after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

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Anti-Gadhafi fighters say they are bracing for a final battle to gain control of Libya's last pro-Gadhafi holdouts. The four-day cease-fire relates primarily to Sirte, but also covers loyalist strongholds in Bani Walid and the southern city of Sabha.

Neither Mr. Gadhafi nor his most influential sons have been seen since anti-Gadhafi fighters seized the capital, Tripoli, last week.  Some believe the former leader may be hiding in the south.

On Monday, Algeria allowed some of Mr. Gadhafi's family members - including his wife Safiya, daughter Aisha, and two of his sons, Mohammad and Hannibal - to enter the country from Libya.

Algerian officials said Mr. Gadhafi's daughter Aisha gave birth to a baby girl in an Algerian oasis deep in the Sahara on Tuesday.  The country's U.N. ambassador ((Mourad Benmehidi)) said the group was allowed entry for "humanitarian considerations."  Algerian officials have said Aisha's pregnancy was one reason for the controversial decision to take the family in.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Gadhafi family was under a U.N.-mandated travel ban.  Nuland confirmed Tuesday that Algeria had sent a letter of explanation to the international community.  She said Washington will decide how to respond after the U.N. and NTC review the letter.

The NTC has demanded that authorities in Algeria extradite members of the Gadhafi family.

The U.N. late Tuesday approved Britain's appeal to release $1.55 billion in seized Libyan assets to address urgent humanitarian needs.  Britain says the money will go to the Central Bank of Libya.

Last week, the U.N. approved the United States' request to release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the NTC for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, NATO's Colonel Roland Lavoie told reporters Tuesday the alliance is aware of negotiations going on between pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces in Mr. Gadhafi's hometown.  NATO has carried out airstrikes against radar sites, missile systems and armed vehicles.  

Colonel Lavoie said Mr. Gadhafi still displays the ability to command and control military forces and weapons and has shown "no intent to retreat peacefully and call his forces off hostilities."

Also Tuesday, a U.S. human rights group said it had uncovered evidence of possible war crimes by pro-Gadhafi forces in Misrata.

Physicians for Human Rights said in a report that forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi carried out murder, torture, rape and forced internment.  The report said the troops forced civilians to act as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks, and blocked civilians from receiving humanitarian aid.

The World Food Program said Tuesday it is sending 600 metric tons of food to Tripoli along with other urgent supplies, including water, medicine and fuel to help people affected by the fighting.  The group said the food will be distributed by the Libyan Red Crescent and help feed 35,000 people for one month.

Zimbabwe on Tuesday expelled the Libyan ambassador and his staff after they claimed allegiance to Libya's NTC.  Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is a strong ally of Mr. Gadhafi.

Meanwhile, European Union member Slovakia granted recognition to the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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