Muammar Gaddafi's most feared son Khamis has been killed fighting in Libya, the country's interim government claimed last night.
The National Transitional Council reportedly confirmed that Khamis had died in fighting close to Tripoli and was buried near Bani Walid, Gaddafi's last stronghold, which was besieged yesterday by the rebels.
No further details have been reported. Khamis's death has been reported at least twice throughout the uprising, falsely on both occasions.
Gaddafi's fifth son, born in 1983, was head of the 32nd Reinforced Brigade, known as the 'Khamis Brigade', heavily armed and strictly trained. They have been accused of ignoring the rules of war and persecuting civilians.
Tribal elders from Bani Walid, a bastion of support for Gaddafi, came out to negotiate yesterday. But the negotiations collapsed.
Last night Libyan rebels were waiting for the green light to launch their final attack on the besieged town.
Rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil said the talks had broken down after Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi's chief spokesman and a top aide, had insisted the rebels put down their weapons before entering the town, some 140km southeast of Tripoli.
Rebel forces control most of the oil-rich North-African nation and are already setting up a new government, but Gaddafi and his staunchest allies remain on the run and enjoy support in several central and southern areas.
The rebels said the hard-core loyalists were a minority inside the town, but were heavily armed and stoked fear to keep other residents from surrendering. "We feel sorry for the people of Bani Walid," said Kanshil, a native of the town. "We hope for the best for our town."
The rebels have extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and other loyalist areas, but some have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many of the most prominent former regime officials were believed to be inside.
There has been speculation that Gaddafi, along with his son Seif al-Islam, had been there at some point and the apparent presence of Ibrahim indicates that the town was a haven for high-level Gaddafi aides.
"This battle has already been decided," said Ahmed Bani, the rebels' military spokesman based in Benghazi. "It is only a matter of hours."
Thousands of rebel fighters have converged on Bani Walid in recent days from multiple directions.
The rebels said Gaddafi has some genuine supporters in Bani Walid, mainly people linked to the dictator through an elaborate patronage system that helped keep him in power for nearly 42 years.
Gaddafi supporters are "claiming that (rebel) fighters will come and rape their women", said Mubarak al-Saleh, the representative from Bani Walid to the rebels' transitional council.
"We are trying to assure people that the fighters are true Muslims who will not harm anybody except those whose hands are stained with blood."
Rebels arriving from Misrata, a western port that played a central role in the war, reported late Saturday that they faced no resistance when they took two military camps on the outskirts of Bani Walid.
NATO, meanwhile, reported bombing a military barracks, a police camp and several other targets near the southern stronghold of Sirte overnight, as well as targets near Hun, a possible staging ground in the desert halfway between Sirte and Sabha.