Mustafa Abdel Jalil NTC chair_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Talks to end a standoff around the besieged Libyan town of Bani Walid broke down
on Sunday, a negotiator for fighters hunting Muammar Gaddafi said.
Walid, along with Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and the desert town of Sabha, are
three of the last main areas not under the rebels’ control, though their forces
are massed nearby.
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Steven Sotloff, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies,
said the rebels are under no illusions that the fight for Bani Walid will be
“There is a feeling the place can’t be taken easily, and that’s why
they are negotiating,” he told The Jerusalem Post by email from Tripoli. “If
they thought they could take it, they would.”
The rebels have said they
are entering into negotiations over the city in an effort to avoid additional
bloodshed, but would employ military force if necessary.
to gauge the rebels’ true motives here – whether they seek to avoid bloodshed or
avoid military losses. If they go in and kill civilians in Bani Walid, people
will be mad, and that could linger and lead to negative feelings toward rebel
leadership at a time when they want to unify the country,” Sotloff
“A policy of negotiation rather than embarking on a military
campaign seems to be a judicious one because it seeks to avoid
After talks with tribal elders, the rebels’ Abdallah Kanshil
told reporters, “As chief negotiator, I have nothing to offer right now. From my
side, negotiations are finished... They said they don’t want to talk, they are
threatening everyone who moves. They are putting snipers on high rise buildings
and inside olive groves, they have a big fire force. We compromised a lot at the
“We will leave this for the field commanders to decide, for
the NTC to decide what to do next,” Kanshil said of the interim authority, the National Transitional
He added that he believed that two of Gaddafi’s sons and his
spokesman Moussa Ibrahim were in Bani Walid, and there has been speculation from
NTC officials that members of the Gaddafi family, even the former leader
himself, may be hiding there.
Tribal elders from the city, a bastion of
support for Gaddafi, came out to negotiate after NTC spokesmen had said several
times over the previous day that talks were over and they were preparing to
NTC commanders at the checkpoint said they suspected Gaddafi’s
most politically prominent son, Saif al-Islam, may have fled the town on
Saturday and headed deeper into the southern desert.
One NTC commander
said that about 20 pro-Gaddafi fighters still controlled the center of Bani
Walid, though other NTC officials estimated there may be as many as 100 fighters
waiting in the town.
Meanwhile, Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia
defended his country’s decision to shelter members of Gaddafi’s family,
describing it as a humanitarian case.
The deposed Libyan leader’s wife
Safia, daughter Aisha and sons Muhammad and Hannibal entered Algeria on August
29 after the Libyan leader was ousted from power in a six-month
Aisha gave birth to a girl hours after crossing the
Libya’s interim rulers have criticized Algeria’s decision to
shelter Gaddafi’s family as an “act of aggression.”
“They are Algeria’s
responsibility,” Ouyahia said of the Gaddafi family members in Algeria,
describing the case as humanitarian.
asked us to consider them as Algerians,” he added, without
specifying which Libyans had made such a request.
Defending the decision
to offer refuge to Gaddafi’s family, he said members of toppled Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein’s family had been taken in by other countries.
Arabia took in ousted Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this year,
that move did not create “such a storm,” he said.
Algeria is the only one
of Libya’s North African neighbors yet to recognize the National Transitional
Council, whose fighters have taken control of Tripoli and much of the rest of
the country, as Libya’s new government.
Algeria will recognize Libya’s
new leaders when they establish a representative government, its foreign
minister said in an interview this week.Reuters contributed to this