Gadhafi fleeing across desert toward Niger, rebels say
Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is fleeing south across the Sahara Desert, bound perhaps for the border with Niger, the military spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council told McClatchy Newspapers on Thursday.
Col. Ahmed Omar Bani said Gadhafi had escaped from the town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, on Thursday and had managed to make it to Sabha, some 400 miles south of Tripoli.
But Bani predicted that Gadhafi wouldn’t remain long in the sprawling garrison town and instead would flee another 350 miles across the desert into land-locked Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, now under military rule.
Bani’s account of Gadhafi’s flight came as the fugitive former dictator issued a defiant call to his supporters to “continue the fight from city to city, valley to valley, mountain to mountain” and predicted that “It is going to be a long battle.
“The Libyan people cannot kneel, cannot surrender; we are not women,” he said in an audio recording broadcast on al-Rai, a Syrian television channel.
It wasn’t clear whether the aim of this latest broadcast was to motivate loyalists in his hometown of Sirte, as well as Bani Walid and Sabha, or to provide cover while he escaped the country he ruled for 42 years. It followed contradictory signals about his ultimate intentions by two of his sons who are still in Libya.
Libya’s new transitional leaders on Thursday delayed for at least a week the Saturday deadline for Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte to surrender or face military assault.
The same ultimatum has been issued to Gadhafi’s supporters in Bani Walid and Sabha. The three cities are thought to be the last significant pro-Gadhafi outposts in Libya.