Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council, has said that supporters of Muammar el-Gaddafi have four days to surrender or face military action. Jalil’s offer was primarily aimed at pro-Gaddafi strongholds including the coastal city of Surt, Gaddafi’s hometown, the city of Bani Walid and Sabha, which is on the edge of the Sahara desert. According to Al Jazeera, forces loyal to Gaddafi have urged people to fight or be killed; Gaddafi himself aired a message to Surt three days ago and called on its residents to defend themselves. Rebel forces have been gathering outside Surt if negotiations with tribal elders fail to lead to a peaceful surrender.
As the New York Times notes, the rebels’ Saturday deadline coincides with the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that concludes with a holiday of several days, Id al-Fitr.
Jalil’s announcement came the day after Libya’s neighbor, Algeria, said it had allowed a convoy of six armored limousines transporting Gaddafi’s second wife, Safiya, his daughter Aisha and and two of his sons, Mohammed and Hannibal, and their families including children. Algeria is the only country neighboring Libya that has yet to recognize the NTC as the country’s legitimate government. Guma al-Gamaty, the NTC’s UK coordinator, told the Guardian that the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, himself authorized the entry of 32 members of Gaddafi’s family. Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha reportedly gave birth in the Algerian town of Djanet.
The NTC’s interior minister, Ahmed Darrat, has said that Algeria granting Gaddafi’s family asylum is an “enemy act”:
The diplomatic row that has blown up in the wake of the family’s escape reflects the tensions caused by the western spread of the Arab spring, as the Algerian government tries to ensure it is not the next domino to fall. It has so far refused to recognise the provisional NTC government in Tripoli. For its part, the NTC is seeking to ensure Algeria does not become a base from which Gaddafi loyalists could mount a counter-revolution.
The “manhunt” for Gaddafi himself and his three most powerful sons, Saif al-Islam, Mutassim and Khamis, is now oriented southward. Western intelligence and special forces are assisting the rebels. Al Jazeera reports that a rebel leader says Khamis has been killed; however, his death has been announced prematurely several times during the conflict.
The New York Times reports that the rebels are gradually establishing themselves as Libya’s official government. On Monday, they signed new energy deals with ENI, Italy’s biggest oil company, and allowed France and Britain, the leading members of the NATO alliance whose airstrikes have supported the rebels’ efforts, to send advance teams into Tripoli to reestablish embassies there. But, says the Guardian, the fact that a convoy of six armored limousines could “drive unmolested down the length of the country, from Bani Walid to the pro-Gaddafi bastion at Sebha, on the edge of the Sahara desert, and then west to the Algerian border, indicates that there is a wide swathe of the central Libyan hinterland” still not in the NTC’s control.
A large number of sub-Saharan migrant workers remain stranded in squalid camps in Tripoli, terrified to leave for home. The workers fear they will be attacked by the rebels after being mistaken for Gaddafi-hired mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. The chairman of the African Union, Jean Ping, has said that the “plight of the stranded migrants was an important reason the union has so far refused to recognize” the NTC and that the Libyan council “seems to confuse black people with mercenaries.”
Tripoli also houses a 45-hectare zoo right next to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya complex and to the Rixos Hotel, where a number of foreign journalists were holed up when the rebel forces first entered Tripoli over a week ago. Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi, owned nine of the zoo’s eighteen lions and visited them daily, says the Guardian. His second son, Saif al-Islam was so fond of big cats that he took two albino lions with him when he went to study in Austria. While a rocket-propelled grenade fell through the zoo’s hippo enclosure, the three hippos were unharmed, as were Saadi’s lions and baboons, gazelle, pelicans and barbary sheep. Let’s hope they are not forgotten as the new rebel government sets itself up in Tripoli.
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