Negotiations for the peaceful surrender of the city of Bani Walid have collapsed, Al Jazeera reported today, citing local officials and fighters. Inside the city, leaders were divided, the Associated Press reported.
Troops loyal to the transitional leadership were ready to launch an attack within 24 hours, Al Jazeera said.
Commanders with the transitional government force estimate “no more than 100” Qaddafi soldiers remain in Bani Walid. Asked whether the deposed leader was among them, oil minister Ali Tarhouni said, “we know where he is,” according to Al Jazeera, the Doha-based satellite television station.
Libyan National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil said yesterday its forces will pressure the cities of Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha until they give up while continuing to supply them with humanitarian aid.
Since rebels captured Tripoli in late August, transitional authorities have been trying to restore stability, consolidate military gains and capture Qaddafi. More than six months of fighting to end the Libyan leader’s 42-year rule have reduced oil production and disrupted power supplies in the country with Africa’s largest crude reserves.
‘We are by the grace of God in a position of strength, capable of entering any city,” Jalil told reporters in Benghazi. The Misrata Military Council said it deployed its most powerful unit, the 500-man Halbus Brigade, around Bani Walid and it has observed that pro-Qaddafi defensive positions have been abandoned.
British aircraft struck nine weapons and ammunition sites near Sirte, Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Nick Pope said in an e-mailed statement today.
Libya’s new leadership has extended by a week to Sept. 10 the deadline for Qaddafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte to surrender. Qaddafi vowed to fight on and turn the country “into a hell” in an audio recording broadcast by Syria-based Arrai satellite television.