Rebels Mass Near Qaddafi Stronghold as Talks End
Rebel forces massed outside one of Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s last remaining strongholds on Sunday, preparing for an assault on the town after negotiations for a peaceful surrender collapsed.
Hours earlier, rebel leaders claimed to be on the verge of winning a surrender of the town, Bani Walid.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a rebel military leader, told reporters in Tripoli that rebels there had raised the rebel flag over the town, and he called on the townspeople to come into the streets and demonstrate their support for the new government.
It was not immediately possible to confirm his claim, and battlefield reports from both sides throughout the conflict have been notoriously unreliable. The rebels themselves have seesawed back and forth between claims that an assault on Bani Walid was imminent and a negotiated settlement was imminent.
A rebel negotiator, Abdullah Kanshil, said later that the talks had broken down after Qaddafi loyalists had insisted the rebels disarm before entering the town, The Associated Press reported.
The town is dominated by the Warfallah tribe, which has long supported Colonel Qaddafi, and rebels have speculated that he or his sons might be hiding there.
Colonel Qaddafi’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, who has not been seen since the fall of Tripoli nearly two weeks ago, told Reuters in a telephone call from an undisclosed location that tribes in Bani Walid still supported Colonel Qaddafi. Mr. Ibrahim said that the exhortations of the transitional council “are not being heeded here in Bani Walid.”
Mr. Ibrahim said that Colonel Qaddafi was still in Libya and was well defended, though he said he did not know where the deposed leader was.