TRIPOLI, Sep 1 – Fugitive Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed again on Thursday not to surrender, in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power.
In the message put out by the pro-Gaddafi Syria-based Arabic-language Arrai Oruba television channel, the fallen strongman said he was prepared for “a long battle” even if Libya burns.
He urged his supporters to keep up their resistance to the insurgency that has conquered most of the country and forced him into hiding, as a major conference opened in Paris on aiding the rebel National Transitional Council to set up a new administration.
“Even if you cannot hear my voice, continue the resistance,” Gaddafi said.
“We will not surrender. We are not women and we are going to keep on fighting.”
“If they want a long battle, let it be long. If Libya burns, who can govern it? So let it burn,” he added in the message sent from an unknown location.
Gaddafi claimed there were splits between NATO, “the alliance of aggression” whose warplanes have paved the way for the insurgents’ advance, and the rebels, “its agents.”
His message followed similar defiant words from his son Seif al-Islam overnight, who said he, his father and “the whole family” were still in Tripoli, which fell to the rebels on August 20 after days of fierce fighting.
But rebel sources said unconfirmed reports put the Gaddafi in the loyalist-held town of Bani Walid, southeast of the capital.
“We have reports that Muammar Gaddafi has been in Bani Walid for the past two days, but these reports are not totally confirmed,” NTC vice-chairman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told AFP.
He said clashes were still going on between rebel and pro-Gaddafi forces near the town.
“The revolutionary fighters are making progress and we are hoping for an end to the conflict soon,” he said.
A rebel commander, Abdel Raziq, said he believed Seif al-Islam and another son, Mutassim, were in Bani Walid.
“According to our most recent information Seif and Mutassim are in Bani Walid,” Raziq said in Tarhuna, between Tripoli and Bani Walid.
“About 80 percent of the people in Bani Walid are with the rebels and only 20 percent are with Gaddafi,” he said. “We expect them to surrender, but if they don’t we will attack from three fronts,” he added without giving other details.
The insurgents had earlier said they believed Gaddafi was hiding in his coastal hometown of Sirte, but another rebel commander said on Thursday they no longer thought that.
Seif al-Islam also vowed that the loyalists would fight to the death, in a separate audio message broadcast by Arrai.
But at the same time another son, Saadi Gaddafi told the Al-Arabiya television channel he was ready to give himself up “If my surrender stops the spilling of blood.”
Algeria allowed one of Gaddafi’s wives, two of his sons and some of his grandchildren to cross the border on Saturday and seek sanctuary, angering the NTC.
But Algeria’s Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said on Thursday there was no question of granting Gaddafi himself asylum.
Officials in the rebel base of Benghazi said on Thursday a deadline for forces loyal to Gaddafi to surrender had been extended by a week to September 10, but others in Tripoli denied it.
However Jalal al-Digheily, defence minister in the NTC, said at Nofilia, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Sirte, “There will be no attack on Sirte just now. We continue to negotiate to enter the city peacefully.”
Rebel forces west of the town told AFP said they had been ordered to pull back from Abu Grain, 80 kilometres from Sirte, to Al-Sadaada, 160 kilometres away.