Saturday, September 24, 2011

Libyan Leader Gaddafi Fighting 'Side by Side With the Warriors'

Gaddafi fighting 'side by side with the warriors'

TRIPOLI, LIBYA - Sep 24 2011 11:42

Muammar Gaddafi's firebrand daughter has said in an audio recording that her father is in high spirits and fighting alongside his supporters against the counter-revolutionary forces who backed by the US and NATO swept his regime from power.

In her first public remarks since the fall of Tripoli a month ago, Aisha Gaddafi accused the country's new leaders of being traitors, noting that some of them were members of Gaddafi's regime before defecting in the civil war.

"Those who have betrayed the pledge they offered [to Gaddafi], how come they won't betray you?" she said in a warning to Libyans.

The prerecorded four-minute message was broadcast on Friday on the Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, which has become Gaddafi's main mouthpiece. The elder Gaddafi, his chief spokesperson and his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, have also released statements through the channel since the takeover of Tripoli.

Aisha, her mother and two brothers fled to Algeria in late August as rebels swept into Libya's capital. Her father's whereabouts are unknown.

"I assure you, he is fine, a believer in God, in good spirits, is carrying his gun and is fighting side by side with the warriors," she said.

Echoing remarks her father has made to the same station, she called on the "lions" of Tripoli and other cities to rise up and fight the country's new rulers.

Aisha Gaddafi is a lawyer in her mid-30s who helped in the defence of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in the trial that led to his hanging.

For two years she served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Programme, focusing on combatting HIV/Aids and violence against women. In February, the UN said it was ending its agreement with her after her father's crackdown on anti-government protesters at the start of what was to become Libya's civil war.

The Algerian Health Ministry reported that Aisha gave birth to a girl on August 30 as she was fleeing across the border. She is reported to have three older children, including a daughter said to have died in a Nato airstrike in April that killed one of her brothers and two other Gaddafi grandchildren.

Struggling to consolidate grip on power
Libya's new western-backed leaders have struggled to consolidate their control over the entire country since their stunning entry into Tripoli at the end of August. Three major loyalist strongholds remain to be taken, including the city of Bani Walid, south-east of Tripoli.

Rebels are planning a new assault on the city, where forces loyal to Gaddafi have put up fierce resistance for two weeks, a commander said on Friday.

Attempts to take the desert city have failed, as loyalist forces massed inside direct punishing mortar, rocket and machinegun fire at fighters crowded around the northern gate. A brigade of rebels will try instead to attack the city from the south-eastern side, said field commander Abdel-Salam Genouna.

Libya's new leaders in the National Transitional Council insist the holdouts in Bani Walid, Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and Sabha, deep in the southern desert, are die-hard supporters -- some of whom fled Tripoli -- who believe they have no choice but to resist or face war crimes charges.

Whatever their numbers, they are well-armed and fighting is still raging on the three fronts.

In Bani Walid, the assault has been made more challenging by the high hills and deep desert valleys in an around the city, 140km south-east of Tripoli.

"The terrain has proven too difficult to overcome from the northern edge," Genouna told the Associated Press. He also blamed what he said was a lack of support from the military council as well as poor planning and shortages of ammunition.

He said the brigade will be leaving to the new front over the weekend. More than 30 fighters have been killed in the failed effort to take the city from the north.

Fighting continued there on Friday

Smoke could be seen rising from Bani Walid after Nato warplanes were heard in the area. Nato is continuing to strike Gaddafi forces in an air campaign that began in March under a UN mandate to protect civilians.

"We are ready to fight, but frankly we don't have a leader to guide us when we enter [Bani Walid]. We need a leader to give us instructions," complained fighter Ali Omran.

In Tripoli, dozens of residents gathered in the center of the city to demand the National Transitional Council address the needs of those injured during the civil war, which began in February.

Protesters held aloft a giant new Libyan flag, chanted in support of the injured, and carried signs reading "Help our wounded."

Also Friday, hundreds gathered in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square to offer prayers for those still fighting supporters of the former regime. - Sapa-AP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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