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Final battle imminent, says Libya rebel leader

BENGHAZI-(AFP) – The launch of the final battle in Libya is imminent, the rebels’ military chief Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told reporters on Tuesday.

“Zero hour is quickly approaching. We would like everyone to know that we are ready for a final military battle,” he told a news conference in the rebel stronghold in the east.

“So far we have been given no indication of a peaceful surrender. We want everyone to know that we are prepared militarily for the battle that will end the conflict,” Bani said.

Asked about possible rebel moves, he replied this was “military intelligence” and declined to elaborate.

“We continue to seek a peaceful solution, but on Saturday we will use different methods against these criminals,” he said.

Earlier, National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters in Benghazi that the NTC was giving a Saturday ultimatum for Muammer Gaddafi’s forces to surrender or face a military onslaught.

“This window of opportunity will be closed at the end of Eid al-Fitr (Friday in Libya),” Abdel Jalil said, adding that talks were under way with officials in towns including Gaddafi’s birthplace Sirte to arrange their peaceful surrender.

“From Saturday, if no peaceful solution is in sight on the ground, we will resort to military force,” Abdel Jalil warned.

Bani expressed “surprise” that the inhabitants of Sirte “still reject our peaceful overtures to avoid the spilling of blood on both sides.”

He also said that rebel fighters may have killed Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Rebel fighters had destroyed two armoured vehicles between the towns of Bani Walid and Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli, and captured Gaddafi loyalists told them that one of the passengers was Senussi, Bani said.

The vehicles were destroyed by fire after the convoy refused to stop as rebel fighters demanded, he said, adding that Senussi has yet to be buried.

In June, the Hague-based court issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Senussi for murder and persecution since mid-February, when a bloody uprising started.

Senussi is Gaddafi’s brother-in-law.

Separately, Libyan state television denied in a message posted on the Internet on Tuesday that Khamis Gaddafi, a son of the strongman, was dead as claimed by the rebels.

“We repeat that information on the death of Khamis Gaddafi is a lie,” the Allibya network, which is run by Seif al-Islam, reported on its Facebook page.

Late on Monday, opposition officials said that Khamis, 28, was killed south of Tripoli and buried on Monday, citing rebel leaders.

The death of Khamis, a feared military commander, has been prematurely announced several times during the Libyan conflict.


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