Monday 18 December 2017

'We'll stay, dead or alive' vows Gaddafi as attacks intensify

Richard Spencer in Tunis and Ruth Sherlock in Misurata

Muammar Gaddafi gave a prompt and dramatic response last night to the heaviest raids on his capital yet, a clear attempt by NATO to bomb him out of power.

"We have only one choice: we will stay in our land dead or alive," the Libyan leader said in a radio broadcast that was made in immediate response to a wave of attacks by low-flying jets on Tripoli.

According to one count, 27 heavy blasts were heard from the centre of the city during the day.

Libyan officials confirmed that Bab al-Azizia, the Gaddafi regime's compound, and the neighbouring 'Compound 77', home to a militia brigade and used as a vehicle storage facility, were repeatedly hit.

Gaddafi's whereabouts are unknown despite his speech, a telephone call that went straight to air. During the broadcast he shouted: "We will not kneel. We will not surrender: we only have one choice -- to the end. Death, victory, it does not matter, we are not surrendering.

"We are stronger than your weapons, than your planes. The voices of the Libyan people are stronger than the sounds of explosions." Jets could be heard overhead as he spoke.

NATO's daylight raids on Monday and yesterday were the first on the city centre for two weeks and a sign that commanders are keen to prevent a stalemate.

William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, admitted at the weekend that the campaign could last beyond Christmas, but ministers acknowledge that the situation is unpredictable. They have also ordered that preparations for a transition of power should be ready in two weeks.

Whether the raids will succeed in scaring Gaddafi out of hiding, or even killing him, is another matter. A senior Libyan official said Gaddafi's bunker could withstand a nuclear attack. "Do you think he will not be keeping safe?" the official said. "His bunker is reinforced against nuclear attack. NATO air strikes cannot damage it."


The attacks may be intended to encourage more defections. Five generals and Shukri Ghanem, the oil minister, fled Libya last week, to be joined yesterday by the labour minister, Al-Amin Manfur.

Mr Hague told the House of Commons that the regime was "isolated and on the defensive".

The other hope is that the rebels may be able to stage a breakthrough.

They have been unable to move beyond the oil town of Brega in the east for weeks, but have advanced in Misurata and last week relieved a siege of the town of Yafran, 85 miles to the south west of Tripoli.

Rebels in Misurata said they had smuggled up to 200 men out of Zlitan, the next town on the road to Tripoli, to a training camp from where they will spearhead an attack in the coming days.

They said that the town was full of Gaddafi troops, including members of the ultra-loyal brigade led by Gaddafi's son Khamis, but that even their commitment to the fighting was unsure.

Lawyers for Gaddafi's daughter, Aisha, have filed lawsuits in Paris and Brussels, the headquarters of NATO, over the alleged assassination in April of four of the leader's relatives in bombing raids over Tripoli. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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