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Gadhafi forces fire from bastion south of capital

By Hadeel Al-shalchi

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 8:00 a.m. MDT

Former rebel fighters, escorting a Gadhafi loyalist taken on the front line, center, go through a checkpoint in Wish Tata, Libya, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. Libya's rebels have surrounded the ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and it is only a matter of time until he is captured or killed, a spokesman for Tripoli's new military council said Wednesday.

Alexandre Meneghini, Associated Press

WISHTATA, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi supporters rocketed a front line south of Tripoli Friday, testing the patience of the country's new leaders as a grace period for the holdouts to surrender runs out.

Also Friday, Interpol said it has issued its top most-wanted alert for the arrest of Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's ex-chief of military intelligence, all sought by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Gadhafi hasn't been seen in public for months and went underground after anti-regime fighters swept into Tripoli on Aug. 21. As the National Transitional Council tries to establish its authority in Libya, speculation about Gadhafi's whereabouts has centered on his Mediterranean hometown of Sirte, southern Sabha, and Bani Walid, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli. Gadhafi loyalists in all three towns have been given until Saturday to surrender, or face an all-out battle.

Friday, Gadhafi holdouts fired mortars and rockets from Bani Walid. National Transitional Council forces around Bani Walid unloaded hundreds of boxes of ammunition and ordinance and reinforcements in gun-mounted trucks rushed toward the front line in the desert sand.

"Today marks the last day of the deadline," said Abdel-Razak al-Nazouri, a commander in the region. "Our men are preparing for an attack, probably tomorrow."

Another transitional council fighter in the region, Osama al-Fassi, said: "We are preparing for war."

The transitional council fighters said they had captured 10 Gadhafi fighters they suspected were spying on them. Dressed in fatigues, their hands tied behind their backs, the 10 were being held in two pickup trucks at the Wishtata checkpoint, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Bani Walid. An Associated Press photographer who saw the trucks said two of the 10 appeared to be dead.

At one point, an ambulance rushed into Wishtata and a transitional council fighter on a stretcher was picked up and taken to a field hospital. Officials refused to say how he had been injured.

The seizure of the capital by the then-rebel forces effectively ended nearly 42 years of Gadhafi's autocratic, violent and unpredictable rule. The new leaders now control most of the country, but as long as Gadhafi is on the loose, able to urge his followers on with messages from underground, they cannot claim total victory. In Tripoli Thursday, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the former rebels' acting Cabinet, said that a new government can be formed only after the whole country is "liberated."

Jibril also told reporters negotiations for the peaceful takeover of Bani Walid, Sirte and Sabha were an opportunity to avoid further bloodshed, but said his forces would respond if attacked. He criticized Bani Walid's leaders, saying they had shown "no real initiatives or intentions to give peace a chance and bring unity back to the Libya people."

Some say prominent regime loyalists, including Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, could be in Bani Walid.

Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the new leadership, said Gadhafi's inner circle has been broken up, with most of its members under arrest or in the process of handing themselves over.

Moammar Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and former military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi are the only people at large who matter, Shammam said in a telephone interview from Qatar.

In a statement Friday, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble called the red notices it issued to its 188 member countries Friday "a powerful tool" in helping lead to the capture of the Gadhafis and al-Senoussi. A red notice is the equivalent to being on the Lyon, France-based international police body's most-wanted list.

Noble said the notices will "significantly restrict the ability of all three men to cross international borders."

On Thursday, in an audio message broadcast on a Syrian-based TV station, a man believed to be Gadhafi dismissed talk of his flight.

In London, Major Gen. Nick Pope, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said NATO launched a long-range mission targeted a military vehicle depot near Sabha Thursday, and attacked a rocket launcher and an armed pickup truck near Sirte.

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Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.

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