Libyan fighters captured a valley leading to the centre of Bani Walid earlier today from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. There were later reports that the stronghold had fallen to the country’s new leaders.
The desert town of Bani Walid, 110 miles south of Tripoli, has been under siege for two weeks, with hundreds of die-hard Gaddafi loyalists concentrated at its centre.
Scores of trucks mounted with machine guns and four tanks were also seen on the road leading into Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte today, according to a Reuters witness.
Columns of heavily armed fighters loyal to Libya’s new leaders reportedly surged into Gaddafi’s hometown, with some combatants claiming that half the Mediterranean city is under their control.
There were unconfirmed reports that National Transitional Council (NTC) forces had captured Sirte airport.
An AFP correspondent said the fighting force comprised dozens of pick-up trucks fitted with heavy machine guns and flanked by three tanks.
The assault came after NTC forces suffered heavy losses when they launched a first attack on the fugitive Kadhafi’s coastal bastion before sunset on Thursday, with 11 fighters killed and 34 wounded.
The Libyan visit of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy marked the start of the “colonisation” of the oil-rich country, Col Gaddafi’s spokesman Moussa Ibrahim warned yesterday.
The British prime minister and French president, whose forces spearheaded the Nato air war that helped to topple Gaddafi, were hailed as heroes during their visit on Thursday to Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.
But Ibrahim, in a telephone call to the Syria-based Arrai late on Thursday, charged that their joint mission had ulterior motives.
“The visit marks the start of a project of colonisation of Libya,” he said.
“They are hurrying to collect the fruits of the fall of Tripoli … because they obviously fear the arrival of America and other countries wanting a slice of the cake,” he said, without disclosing where he was phoning from.
Gaddafi and members of his inner circle have been in hiding since Tripoli was overrun by National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters late last month, with the fugitive strongman still believed to be in Libya even though members of his family have fled to Algeria and Niger.
“They hurried to Tripoli to make secret deals with the collaborators and the traitors, and to take the control of oil and investments under the pretext of rebuilding,” Ibrahim said.
“They speak now about the construction of Libya for hundreds of billions of dollars … they destroy it and rebuild it with the money of Libyans.”
Cameron, while in Tripoli, said Britain would release £600 million in Libyan assets as part of a series of measures aimed at supporting Libya’s new authorities.
He also said Britain would release another 12 billion pounds in frozen Gaddafi regime assets as soon as the UN Security Council approved a draft resolution that Britain and France are to put forward on Friday.
Ibrahim charged that both France and Britain were out to “transform Libya into a fiefdom of the West.”
“We will continue our resistance until we achieve victory, the recovery of Libya and free it of this project of colonisation. The battle is far from finished, we have the capacity to resist and win,” he said, while calling for “passive resistance and civil disobedience.”
“We have thousands (of fighters), weapons, ammunition, money and legitimacy … and we have thousands of well-prepared volunteers ready on all fronts and determined. The only way forward for us is the way of victory.”
Source: The Telegraph