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Libya NTC says to announce "crisis" government in days

Sep 23, 2011, 2:56 p.m.
Fighters loyal to Libya's interim rulers prepare ammunition for artillery on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sirte September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Anis Mili

A manhunt for Gaddafi, who has been in hiding for weeks occasionally issuing defiant audio messages through Syrian-based Arrai TV, was drawing closer to its target, said Bani.

The network broadcast a bad-tempered audio message from Gaddafi's daughter Aisha on Friday. It was the first time she had spoken publicly since fleeing into exile in Algeria last month along with two of his sons.

"I reassure you about your leader, oh Libyans," the 35-year-old lawyer said, sounding distressed. "He is well and thank God his spirits are high. He is carrying his weapon and fighting along with his sons at the fronts."

A spokesman for Gaddafi, Moussa Ibrahim, said on Thursday NATO air strikes and interim government forces' shelling of Sirte were killing civilians.

His statement could not be verified as journalists are unable to reach the city. NATO comment was not immediately available.

Interim government fighters near Sirte and residents fleeing the city said pro-Gaddafi forces had been executing people suspected of sympathizing with the NTC.

North of Bani Walid, NTC military forces brought forward tanks and Grad rocket launchers for a renewed attempt to take the town although it was not clear when the attack might begin.

The offensive there has been frustrated by stiff resistance from well-drilled loyalist fighters, and also a lack of organization among the attacking forces. They operate in disparate units based on their home towns, with little overall command.

Many fighters go into battle wearing flip-flop sandals, t-shirts and jeans, and have no military training.

"We don't take orders from the NTC. We listen only to our own commander," said Ziyad Al Khemri, a fighter from Zawiyah, just west of Tripoli.

If the NTC cannot swiftly impose control on the country and its own forces, this may embarrass Western leaders, especially France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's David Cameron, who took a gamble by backing the anti-Gaddafi leadership.

The NTC said last week it would move to Tripoli only after its forces were in full control of Libyan territory, contradicting an earlier pledge to move the interim administration to the capital around mid-September.

"Complete liberation would be announced when we are in control of Sirte and Bani Walid and control all the border crossings," said NTC spokesman Ghoga.

"This means Gaddafi forces would have no control over any of those crossings. I believe it's a matter of few days."

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Joseph Logan and William Maclean in Tripoli, Sherine El Madany east of Sirte, Tarek Amara and Barry Malone in Tunis, Muriel Boselli in Paris, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Writing by Joseph Nasr and Barry Malone; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

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