Gaddafi urges loyalists to fight ‘traitors and rats’

Besieged leader reportedly still in Tripoli; Libyan-Jewish leader optimistic democracy will take hold.

August 25, 2011 01:55
4 minute read.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's location unknown

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files)


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Muammar Gaddafi urged loyalists on Wednesday to continue fighting insurgents, denouncing the rebels as traitors and “rats.”

The opposition National Transitional Council planned a string of diplomatic summits in a bid to portray itself as Libya’s legitimate government.

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In a poor-quality audio broadcast on a satellite channel, Gaddafi said the withdrawal from his headquarters in the heart of the capital Tripoli was a tactical move, and vowed to accept only victory or “martyrdom.”

“I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and... I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger,” he said.

Rebels and their political leaders planned high-level talks in Qatar on Wednesday with envoys of the United States, Britain, France, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Istanbul on the road ahead in the country.

In Benghazi, the chairman of the opposition council gave a sense of urgency to finding Gaddafi, who the rebels believe may still be in or around Tripoli, having left his Bab al- Aziziya compound in the capital before it fell on Tuesday.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, one of Gaddafi’s ministers before defecting in February, said the incoming administration would offer amnesty to any remaining member of Gaddafi’s entourage who located or killed him. Abdul Jalil said a local businessman was offering 2 million dinars, about $1.3 million, to anyone who captured Gaddafi.

The opposition’s call to capture the aging ruler “dead or alive” gave pause to observers concerned over the possibility of violent score-settling following Gaddafi’s seemingly imminent ouster. But Meir Kahlon, chairman of the World Organization of Libyan Jews, offered a more optimistic view of prospects for democracy in a post-Gaddafi era.

“They studied in Europe – in Rome and London – and in the United States,” he said, referring to opposition leaders.

“They know what democracy is, and they want to be free.

They suffered greatly under the Gaddafi dictatorship, and many were imprisoned or had their property confiscated.

“With all my heart, I hope they can form an enlightened country,” said Kahlon, who was born in Tripoli and emigrated to Israel in 1949. Last month his organization – based in Israel and representing 200,000 former refugees worldwide – sent a letter to the National Transitional Council recognizing it as the country’s legitimate government and offering support and assistance.

A rebel military spokesman estimated Wednesday that “95 percent of Libya is under rebel control,” a comment seeming to echo Monday’s widely reported figures of insurgent control over “95% of Tripoli.”

Opposition claims have come under increased scrutiny after Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam resurfaced in Tripoli on Tuesday after rebels said they had captured him.

Abdel Salam Jalloud, a close ally of Gaddafi who switched sides in the past week, told Al Jazeera the veteran leader had had a plan to drop out of sight before launching an Iraq-style guerrilla campaign once NATO air forces had been called off. US officials also believe Gaddafi is still in Libya.

One rebel commander in Tripoli said Gaddafi might be in an area in the south of the city, where clashes were going on. Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Benghazi, was still not in the hands of the new leadership, nor was the southern desert city of Sabha, where the rebels reported fighting.

A day after rebel forces overran his Tripoli headquarters and trashed the symbols of his 42-year dictatorship, rocket and machine gun fire from pockets of loyalists kept the irregular fighters at bay as they tried to hunt down Gaddafi and his sons.

Still, international powers and the rebel governmentin- waiting in Benghazi lost no time in making arrangements for a handover of Libya’s substantial foreign assets.

France was working with Britain and other allies to draft a United Nations resolution intended to ease sanctions and asset freezes imposed on Libya when Gaddafi was in charge. Rebels also spoke of restarting oil export facilities soon, and Washington was set to submit a UN resolution to release an immediate $1.5 billion for humanitarian needs.

Gaddafi’s family and a small circle of others accumulated great wealth and have the most to lose. A woman saying she was his daughter Aisha urged Libyans to fight on, in a phone call broadcast on a small satellite channel: “I tell the Libyan people to stand hand-in-hand against NATO,” she said. “The leader is in the right.” It was unclear where she was.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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