National Transitional Council commander is killed
Moammar Gadhafi is believed to be near Ghadamis, a military spokesman says
His sons are believed to be hiding in Sirte and Bani Walid
Interim council claims have turned out to be false before
Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is believed to be hiding out near the western town of Ghadamis under the protection of Tuareg fighters, an interim government military spokesman told CNN Tuesday.
“We have reliable information that Gadhafi is protected by the Tuareg tribe located between Niger, Algeria and Ghadamis town in Libya,” said Col. Abdul Basit.
He said Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam is in Bani Walid, and another son, Mutassim, is in Sirte. Both cities remain contested.
Basit did not say how the interim government discovered Gadhafi’s putative whereabouts, and his assertions could not be verified. The National Transitional Council has made similar claims that proved false.
Ghadamis is in western Libya, on the border with Algeria. Tuareg tribesmen have helped Gadhafi loyalists escape Libya across the expanses of the Sahel.
During his rule, Gadhafi often turned to the nomadic Tuareg to bolster his forces and his attempts to manipulate and destabilize the poor countries to the south of Libya: Niger, Chad and Mali.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, has issued arrest warrants for Moammar and Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. They are wanted for alleged crimes against humanity committed after the start of the Libyan uprising in February.
After the fall of Tripoli to revolutionary forces, messages purportedly from Gadhafi were aired on Syrian-based television Al-Rai. The longtime dictator has not been seen in public for months.
Libya’s new leadership has been meeting in Benghazi to discuss the formation of an interim government. Meanwhile, battles are still raging in Sirte and Bani Walid; NATO estimates that 200,000 of Libya’s 6 million people are still under threat from Gadhafi’s supporters.
Near Bani Walid’s front line, senior National Transitional Council field commander Daou Al-Salhine Al Jadak was killed Tuesday, said Abdulla Kenshill, a spokesman in Bani Walid.
“A rocket struck a truck transporting Al Jadak and six of his aides,” Kenshill said Wednesday. “They are all Libyan martyrs of the revolution.”
He described the humanitarian situation in Bani Walid as “really bad” and said 30,000 of the city’s residents had fled toward Tripoli and 12,000 toward Sabha, in the south.
Neither side appeared to be making headway in Bani Walid, he said.
“There are spies among our revolutionaries who send our coordinates to the snipers and Gadhafi loyalists firing from inside Bani Walid, and the proof is that their attacks have been precisely targeted,” said Emad Ziglam, a field commander of the Tripoli rebels fighting outside Bani Walid.
“The mistake was mixing the rebel units. We should not have allowed fighters from Benghazi among others to join in, since we do not know them all. There are definitely traitors among us.”
Thousands of people have fled the fighting in Sirte, the birthplace of Gadhafi, where the strongman retains a following. The National Transitional Council said that about 100 families left the city Wednesday.
It also said Sirte was surrounded by revolutionary fighters but estimated that about 5,000 pro-Gadhafi fighters remained within the city.
Transitional council military commanders Jamal al-Raies and Mohammed Ismael said its forces would wait a few days before starting any major offensive on the city in order to give civilians there more time to leave.
Col. Ahmed Bani said anti-Gadhafi forces had taken control of the northern part of Sirte as well as its airport, its seaport and the Gardabya military base.
CNN’s Mohamed Fahmy contributed to this report.