Libya’s rebel commanders may have to resort to an assault to take the Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid after forces loyal to the Colonel remained defiant.
Negotiations seeking to find a peaceful solution have broken down at Bani Walid, a rebel spokesman said.
The rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) has been trying to persuade Gaddafi loyalists to abandon the town, one of the Colonel’s last remaining bastions.
The negotiations are part of the rebels’ strategy to mop up the final pockets of resistance in Libya after their forces stormed Tripoli last week, effectively ending the 42-year rule of Gaddafi after six months of conflict.
They warned last week that Gaddafi’s forces only had until Saturday to surrender their strongholds across the rest of Libya, or they would face military force.
But Gaddafi’s fighters at Bani Walid do not seem to see surrender as an option – even though the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself remain unknown. There is some speculation he or members of his family could be in Bani Walid itself, explaining the defiance.
Rebel negotiator Abdallah Kanshil said: “As chief negotiator, I have nothing to offer right now. From my side, negotiations are finished.
“They said they don’t want to talk, they are threatening everyone who moves. They are putting snipers on high rise buildings and inside olive groves, they have a big fire force. We compromised a lot at the last minute.”
They said they don’t want to talk, they are threatening everyone who moves. Rebel negotiator Abdallah Kanshil
It would be up to the NTC to decide what to do next, he added.
“I urge Gaddafi people to leave the town alone.”
Tribal elders from Bani Walid came out to negotiate after NTC spokesmen said several times over the weekend that talks were over and they were about to attack. No comment was available from the Gaddafi forces.
Rebel forces are also closing in on Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace and another area loyal to him.
The United Nations has said it has concerns over the safety of civilians if fighting continues in the Gaddafi loyalist areas, particularly because independent accounts are difficult to obtain.
Separately, papers found in an abandoned office building in Tripoli appear to show that the British intelligence agencies worked with Gaddafi on a “rendition” operation.
A secret CIA document appears to show that a terrorism suspect was removed from Hong Kong to Tripoli for questioning, along with his wife and children, despite the risk of torture.
Other papers found in the building also suggest that the UK was involved in a number of US-led operations resulting in Islamists being jailed in Gaddafi’s prisons. On Sunday one of the victims, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, now a commander in the rebel army, demanded an apology for his treatment.