Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Libya rebels give loyalist towns Saturday deadline

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- The head of Libya's interim council set a Saturday deadline for remaining loyalist towns to surrender or face fierce military battles.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, told reporters Tuesday that the rebels are in negotiations with tribal elders and hope that by the end of the Eid holidays, loyalists will surrender in places like Sirte, Moammar Gadhafi's hometown.

Jalil said the rebels hope to "avoid more bloodshed and to avoid more destruction and damage."

But in the end," he said, "it might have to be decided militarily. I hope this will not be the case."

As fighting continued for the last bastions of Gadhafi's grip, the strongman's whereabouts still were unknown. Members of his family, including Gadhafi's wife Safia, two sons -- Moahamed and Hannibal -- and daughter Aisha escaped to Algeria.

Mourad Benmehidi, Algeria's ambassador to the United Nations, said his nation allowed them to enter on "humanitarian grounds."

Unlike Libya's other neighbors, Algeria has not recognized the authority of the National Transitional Council and that nation's authoritarian government has much to fear with Arab revolutions so close to home.

Jalil said Tuesday that the rebels would ask Algeria to extradite members of the Gadhafi family back to Libya. He also said that once Libyan liberation was complete, the country would set up courts to hear people's complaints against the Gadhafi regime.

Rebel fighters forged ahead Tuesday toward Sirte, situated along the Mediterranean coast between the capital, Tripoli, and the opposition nerve center of Benghazi.

Tripoli residents feted the end of Ramadan with celebratory gunfire amid news that one of Gadhafi's most notorious sons, Khamis, died after a battle with rebel forces Sunday night in northwest Libya between Tarunah and Bani Walid.

Members of the 32nd Brigade or Khamis Brigade were known for human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch said Monday that the brigade executed detainees a week ago in a warehouse near Tripoli.

Forces led by Khamis also killed scores of captive civilians as they tried to retreat from Tripoli, according to Muneer Masoud Own, who said he survived the massacre. CNN could not independently verify the claim, though Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both documented the alleged incident.

A rebel commander said Khamis was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries. The rebels buried him in the area.

In Tripoli, some shops started to reopen. Traffic has picked up and humanitarian aid is trickling in. France reopened its embassy Monday and Britain said its personnel are preparing to do the same.

Yet life was still far from normal -- no water and food in short supply.

Elsewhere, fighting raged, a reminder that the war in Libya was far from finished.

"There is still a need for the continuation of joint work in order to achieve the Libyan people's goals to get rid of the remnants of the Gadhafi regime," Qatar's news agency reported, citing foreign military leaders from several nations involved in the conflict who met in the Persian Gulf state Monday.

Another of Gadhafi's sons, businessman Saadi Gadhafi, has offered to negotiate an end to the war with the rebels, who he claimed cannot "build a new country without having us (at) the table." He has made previous offers, though this time he appeared ready to cut loose from his father and his brother Saif al-Islam, once assumed to be the heir apparent.

"If (the rebels) agree to cooperate to save the country together (without my father and Saif) then it will be easy and fast. I promise!" Saadi Gadhafi said in an e-mail to CNN's Nic Robertson.

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