At least 15 security men guarding an oil refinery near Ras Lanuf have been killed by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, as the erstwhile leader’s son Saadi crosses the Libyan border into Niger.
The attack on the refinery came only hours after Libya’s new government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), announced it was resuming the country’s oil production, the lifeblood of the country’s economy which has been virtually shut down since March.
Sixty or so staff were at the refinery at the time of the attack, according to one of two wounded survivors at a hospital where the dead were also taken.
Refinery worker Ramadan Abdel Qader, who was been shot in the foot, said gunmen in 14 or 15 trucks had come from the direction of the Gaddafi-held coastal city of Sirte.
“We heard firing and shelling at around nine in the morning from Gaddafi loyalists,” he said.
Rebel fighters are continuing to advance towards Sirte, the home town of Gaddafi and one of his remaining strongholds.
The NTC had been trying to broker a deal for the surrender of the city, but the deadline it set has now expired and talks are thought to have broken down.
Forces loyal to Gaddafi continue to hold out in Sirte, Bani Walid, south east of Tripoli, and Sabha in the southern desert.
Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi, has entered neighbouring Niger though Libya’s southern desert border, the country’s justice minister has said.
The 37-year-old, one of the most high-profile former regime figures to flee, entered Niger in a convoy with nine other people, according to Amadou Morou.
The vehicles were travelling south toward the outpost of Agadez, where other fleeing Libyan loyalists are believed to be holed up in a hotel.
“Today, 11 September, 2011, we have recorded the arrival of another convoy with nine Libyans, including one of Gaddafi’s sons, al-Saadi Gaddafi. They were intercepted by the security forces of our country. They are now moving in the direction of Agadez,” Mr Morou said.
Saadi’s arrival in the country means that only Colonel Gaddafi himself and his sons Saif al-Islam and Mutassim are still thought to be in Libya. His wife Safiya, daughter Aiysha and sons Hannibal and Mohammad arrived in Algeria last month. Two other sons, Khamis and Saif al-Arab, were reported killed during the war, although this has not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, the prime minister of Guinea Bissau has said that Gaddafi and his inner circle would be welcome in the west African country if he sought shelter there.
“Gaddafi deserved all the respect and good treatment of the Guinea Bissau government and people,” Carlos Gomes Junior told the independent Radio Bombolom, adding that “he will be welcome if he needs refuge in our country.”