- Title: LIBYA: Rebel fighters tighten grip on Gaddafiâ€™s stronghold
- Date: 4th September 2011
- Summary: PEOPLE IN CAR CELEBRATING
- Embargoed: 19th September 2011 13:00
- Location: Libya
- Country: Libya
- Topics: Conflict
- Reuters ID: LVA8W28L3U4P9XL1C2DOR3X1DIFR
- Story Text: Libya's anti-Gaddafi fighters near his suspected hideout said Saturday (September 3) that they were closing in on bastions of support for the fugitive leader.
Offering Libyans some hope of an end to conflict and a more prosperous future after 42 years of Gaddafi's personal rule revolutionary leaders said the pro-Gaddafi bastion of Bani Walid may have changed sides.
"We are at the borders between Talhouna and Bani Walid. We are about to liberate Bani Walid, but we try to resolve the situation peacefully because they are our people. We do not want to fight with our people," said one fighter near a checkpoint 50 km from Bani Walid frontlines.
A senior military source in the forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) had told Reuters earlier that NTC leaders were close to reaching agreement with tribal leaders in Bani Walid on their imminent peaceful surrender.
"This is al Sheishan gate, the borders between Talhouna and Bani Walid, It is important because it is the main road towards the west. The information is that Gaddafi forces were inside Bani Walid and left it. I believe they fled, al Gaddafi is on the borders near Algeria but I am not sure about Saif al Eslam," said one anti-Gaddafi fighter from Bani Walid.
NTC leaders, many of whom remain in the eastern city of Benghazi where the uprising began in February, say the conflict will only be over when Gaddafi is found, dead or alive.
"The rebels are at the borders of Bani Walid. We gave people a chance to go to their houses. We will enter the city within hours. The remaining five percent is the one with links to the dictator regime of Gaddafi, the killer who is wanted by the international court. We will inshallah enter it in the coming hours," said an unidentified fighter.
Last week, a senior NTC commander said he believed the 69-year-old fugitive was around Bani Walid, a tribal stronghold some 150 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital, along with his son Saif al-Islam, long seen as the heir apparent. Both men have made broadcasts this week declaring plans to fight back.
Their spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, speaking from hiding, told Reuters on Friday that Saif al-Islam was in suburbs south of Tripoli. A source with links to Bani Walid said tribal leaders in the town were hoping to negotiate a peaceful entry to the area by NTC forces -- they were seeking assurances that former pro-Gaddafi fighters would not face reprisals.
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