Tripoli: Libyan rebels say Gaddafi and sons surrounded

Ousted leader allegedly being hidden in apartment building near his compound; UK's Fox says NATO helping in hunt for Gaddafi.

August 25, 2011 16:23
3 minute read.
Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah Tripoli compound

Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah Tripoli compound 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Louafi Larbi)

TRIPOLI - A group of rebels besieging a cluster of apartment buildings near the Bab al-Aziziyah compound of Muammar Gaddafi said on Thursday that they believed the man who led Libya for four decades was hiding in the buildings with some of his sons.

Rebels were exchanging fire with Gaddafi loyalists inside the buildings. They did not say why they believed Gaddafi and his sons were inside.

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"They are together. They are in a small hole," said one of the fighters involved in the battle, Muhammad Gomaa. "Today we finish. Today we will end that."

Libyan commandos fighting Muammar Gaddafi came close to capturing the toppled leader on Wednesday when they raided a private home in Tripoli where he appeared to have been hiding, Paris Match magazine said on Thursday.

Citing a source in a unit which it said was coordinating among intelligence services from Arab states and Libyan rebels, the French weekly said on its website that these services believed Gaddafi was still somewhere in the Libyan capital.

Gaddafi was gone from the unassuming safe house in central Tripoli when agents arrived about 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday after a tip-off from a credible source. But, the magazine said, they found evidence that he had spent at least one night there -- though it did not say how recently that was.

Britain's Defense Minister Liam Fox said on Thursday that NATO is supporting Libyan rebels hunting Gaddafi and his sons and has stepped up air raids targeting loyalists,

"I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC (National Transitional Council) to help them track down Colonel Gaddafi and other remnants of the regime," he told Sky News.

He declined to comment on a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that British special forces were on the ground in Libya assisting with the hunt.

Fox said NATO operations would continue until pockets of resistance containing Gaddafi loyalists were eliminated, and this could take some time.

"There was increased NATO activity last night including British fast jets because there are areas of resistance by the regime which has had considerable levels of military expertise, still has stockpiles of weapons and still has the ability for command and control.

"They may take some time to completely eliminate and it is likely there will be some frustrating days ahead before the Libyan people are completely free of the Gaddafi legacy."

He urged South Africa to drop its objections to unfreezing $1.5 billion of Libyan assets to support the NTC and for humanitarian assistance. South Africa has blocked the proposal at the United Nations for weeks because it objects to funding the rebel government.

"South Africa is, according to their government, worried about taking sides. It's very clear what side the Libyan people are on, and I think that is what the South African government should respond to," Fox told BBC radio.

"I think there will be huge moral pressure on South Africa. They wanted the world at one point to stand with them against apartheid. I think they now need to stand with the Libyan people."

The United States asked the UN Security Council on Wednesday to unfreeze the Libyan assets as soon as possible. No vote was held on the draft resolution, but diplomats said a vote could come on Thursday or Friday.

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