Muammar Gaddafi called on supporters to march on Tripoli and “purify” the capital of rebels, whom he denounced as “rats, crusaders and unbelievers” in a defiant, angry speech Thursday that showed no sign of despair or remorse.

Rebel groups said earlier that they had surrounded Gaddafi’s family in a Tripoli apartment building, but by day’s end those reports remained unconfirmed.

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In a short audio broadcast on loyalist satellite TV channels, the fugitive leader called on all of Libya’s tribes to rally and expel what he called foreign agents from the country.

“Libya is for the Libyan people and not for the agents, not for imperialism, not for France, not for Sarkozy, not for Italy,” he said. “Tripoli is for you, not for those who rely on NATO.” David Gerbi, a Libyan-Jewish psychoanalyst based in Rome, said reports of Gaddafi’s impending capture should be taken with a grain of salt. “Part of the war is also lying,” said Gerbi, who has visited Benghazi several times in recent months, helping colleagues treat rebel fighters with post-traumatic stress disorder.

By phone from neighboring Tunisia, Gerbi said he believes that despite ideological divisions between Libya’s various opposition factions, democracy can carry the day in a post- Gaddafi era.

“There will be a struggle, as there always is in the transition between dictatorship and democracy. It will be a work in progress. First they need to get rid of Gaddafi, and then there will probably be conflicts of interest, tribal conflicts, religious conflicts.

“It’s a traumatized country – it needs to heal,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “The people are devastated – they’re only now learning what freedom and democracy are.”

On Wednesday, rebel leaders offered a $1.3 million prize to anyone finding Gaddafi dead or alive. The offer caused anxiety among Western observers concerned that Gaddafi’s capture could lead to a new round of score-settling against the longtime leader’s family and confidants.

Samir Ben-Layashi, a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said he found the statement disappointing.

“What disappointed me is this cowboy language the rebels have used – the price they’ve put on his head. It made me think of what happened in Iraq,” he told the Post. “I’m really disappointed in the National Transitional Council. This plays against them."


“I’m not really sure we need to focus so much on this man [Gaddafi]. I think we need to start talking about him in the past tense in order to move forward,” said Ben-Layashi, who hails from Morocco and has lived in Israel for several years with his Dutch-Israeli wife.

Western powers have demanded Gaddafi’s surrender and worked to release frozen Libyan state funds, hoping to ease hardships and start reconstruction in the oil-rich state.

This week Libyan rebels, backed by NATO air power, overran Tripoli and burst into Gaddafi’s fortified compound, which they ransacked without finding him or his family.

Signs of revenge attacks have already appeared. A Reuters correspondent counted 30 bodies, apparently of troops and gunmen who had fought for Gaddafi, at a site in central Tripoli. At least two had their hands bound, and one was strapped to a hospital trolley with a drip still in his arm. All the bodies had been riddled with bullets.

Elsewhere, a British medical worker said she had counted 17 bodies that she believed were of prisoners executed by Gaddafi’s forces. One wounded man said he had survived the incident, when prison guards had sprayed inmates with gunfire on Tuesday as the rebel forces entered Gaddafi’s compound.

On Thursday, rebels stormed Tripoli’s Abu Salim district, one of the main holdouts of forces loyal to Gaddafi in the capital, after a NATO air strike on a building in the area. Rebel fighters were sweeping through houses to flush out snipers and were emerging with dozens of prisoners, the correspondent said, adding that gunfights were ongoing.

Speaking from an unknown location, Gaddafi suggested the loss of most of his capital and moves by several Arab states to put their full weight behind the rebel leadership have done little to dampen his spirits.

“The enemy is delusional, NATO is retreating. It cannot go on forever in the air. NATO be damned,” he shouted. “We will defeat them with determination, through will, commitment to freedom, sovereignty, dignity and glory. Never be afraid of them, only fear God, you are closer to God than they.”

In a nod to a speech he made early in the uprising against his 42-year rule, Gaddafi urged Libya’s youth and tribal leaders to take control of their neighborhoods from the rebels.

“Street by street, alleyway by alleyway, house by house,” he cried. “The tribes that are outside of Tripoli must march on Tripoli. Each tribe must control its area and stop the enemy setting its foot on this pure land.

“O sheikhs of the mosques, O scholars, incite the people to jihad. Go out as their leaders,” he said. “Do not leave Tripoli to those rats, kill them, defeat them quickly. You are the crushing majority... There will be no safe place for the enemies.”

Gaddafi said Libyans must show the rebels no mercy.

“I call upon you to organize a million-man march that will fight this time, that will fill the streets and fill the squares. Do not fear the shelling. These are blank shells that scare you.

“Bring out the men and women this time to purify Tripoli. Bring out the young inside Tripoli to protect all alleyways and districts... They must fight and not give up.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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