Saturday 16 December 2017

Gaddafi: Rebels offer amnesty for dictator’s kill or capture

Journalists work in a hallway as gun-battles continue around the Rixos hotel
Rebel fighters stand with their feet upon the head of a statue of Muammar Gaddafi after the storming of his Tripoli compound (AP)
TV footage shows rebel fighters atop a symbolic statue of a fist crushing a US aircraft after storming Muammar Gaddafi's compound (AP)
People in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi celebrate the attack on Muammar Gaddafi's main military compound in Tripoli (AP)

James Tapsfield, Matthew Holehouse and Raf Sanchez

Libyan rebels today offered an amnesty for any of Col Muammar Gadaffi’s henchmen who kill or capture him. The offer came as rebel forces advancing on Sirte were meeting stiff resistance in the town of Bin Jawad.

Fighters approaching from the west toward's Gaddafi's home town were hit by heavy artillery as loyalists sought to keep the area in their control.

Special forces from Britain, Jordan, France and Qatar are all understood to be on the ground in Libya.

Reports today indicated that Gaddafi is hiding out in a secluded farm on the outskirts of Tripoli.

The Charge d'Affaires at the Libyan embassy in London, Mahmud Nacua, suggested Gaddafi may have escaped to the farm on the outskirts of the capital, where he was known to have visited friends in the past.

His claim was given some credence by what sounded like chickens squawking in the background of Gaddafi's audio message.

Meanwhile, the sound of intense and prolonged gunfire could be heard today coming from near Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel, the base of all war correspondents covering the Libyan conflict.

A group of foreign reporters is inside the Rixos Hotel, who had been prevented from leaving by armed men loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, were subsequently freed.

An Egyptian newspaper today put together a collection of Gaddafi's pearls of wisdom. They include: "I am not such a dictator that I would shut down Facebook. I’ll merely imprison anyone who logs in to it."

“There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet,” and “a woman has the right to run for election whether she’s male or female!"

Prophetically he also said: “If a revolution breaks out no one can bury it. It will break out here and there and everywhere. The world is interconnected. A demonstration at a mosque in one place in the Arab homeland will heard everywhere in the Arab nation.”

In Tripoli, jubilant fighters raised the new Libyan flag, tore down statues, fired guns into the air, and looted personal possessions from his luxurious home.

One man was spotted wearing the famous colonel's hat previously sported by the "brother leader" - having apparently taken it from his bedroom.

However, there was no trace of Gaddafi himself, sparking speculation that he may have used a secret network of tunnels to escape.

The US believes the 69-year-old is still in the country, and his remaining forces are said to be heading for his home town of Sirte, raising the prospect of a bloody final showdown with the rebels.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the breaching of the inner sanctum as an important symbolic moment after the public reappearance of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam yesterday provoked doubt over which side had the upper hand.

"For anyone in Libya who thought the Gaddafi regime, that its writ still ran, that what Gaddafi's son was saying this morning was true - well they are really disabused of it when they can see what is happening at the compound there," he said in a round of interviews.

"So that is important. But equally of course we have all learned over the last five months not to place too much emphasis on any one development or one piece of news."

He added: "This is not yet an ordered or secure situation in Tripoli or other parts of Libya. It's not over yet but we are in the death throes here of a despicable regime."

In a remark directed at Syrian president Bashar al-Assad - who has been brutally putting down protests - Mr Hague went on: "There is a lesson here for others in the world that once a critical mass of people of a country set out to achieve change or bring democracy to their country, then attempts to repress that by violence will not permanently succeed."

Celebrations took place across the country as it became clear that Gaddafi had been routed. Thousands gathered in Tripoli's Green Square - the site of numerous rallies staged to show support for the dictator over recent months.

Leaders of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) are expected to arrive in the capital later after signalling that they will shift their base from Benghazi.

Civilian experts from Britain are also poised to head for the city to help stabilise the government, in a bid to avoid the chaos that followed military victories in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Brussels, the EU's foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton said it was preparing to unfreeze Libyan assets once the United Nations had given its approval.

She is to travel to New York on Friday to discuss releasing funds to Libya's transitional administration to ensure public sector workers are paid and the country's stores have sufficient supplies.

Gaddafi last night told a television station that his withdrawal from Bab al-Aziziya compound had been a tactical move, Reuters reported.

The embattled dictator also vowed death or victory in the fight against "aggression", telling Al-Orouba TV that his Tripoli headquarters had been levelled to the ground after 64 Nato airstrikes.

He added that he would address the Libyan people in a radio address.

Gaddafi made the comments in an address on a local Tripoli radio station, it was later reported.

Al-Orouba TV also said the dictator vowed "martyrdom" or victory in his fight against Nato while making the speech.

The television station also broadcast what it said was a telephone interview with government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim.

He said Libya would be turned into a "burning volcano and a fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents".

It was later reported that Gaddafi had told another Arab television station that he had made a discreet tour of Tripoli and felt the city was not in danger.

He also told residents they must "cleanse" the Libyan capital of the rebels, it was said.

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