Abdel Magid al Fergany, Associated Press
SABHA, Libya — Libya's transitional government delivered 20 million dinars ($16 million) Tuesday to this remote southern city beset by fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to bolster support for revolutionary forces.
Journalists accompanied the oil and finance minister, Ali al-Tarhouni, and the cash on the first flight to touch down in the desert city of Sabha since a NATO enforced no-fly zone order in March. The 20 boxes of 20-dinar notes, each weighing 116 pounds (78 kilograms), were delivered to the Sabha central bank.
Revolutionary forces have gained control of much of the area but still face heavy resistance.
"The forces inside these areas are not opposed to joining us but they do not want to disarm," said Ahmed Bashir, spokesman for Libya's National Transitional Council in Sabha. "They have the weapons and no manpower. We have the manpower and lighter weapons."
More than a month after sweeping into Tripoli and ending Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule, the fugitive leader's supporters are still putting up a fierce fight on three fronts: in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, the town of Bani Walid southeast of the capital and in pockets in the country's vast desert south, including Sabha. Most of the recent fighting has occurred in Bani Walid and the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte.
Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown, although he has exhorted his supporters to fight on several times in audio messages.
Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, which has become the former regime's mouthpiece, aired video of Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, and it said it was taken last week. The same video, however, appears to have been uploaded to YouTube on March 6. A second YouTube video appears to show the same event with an upload date of Feb. 27, early on in the uprising.
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi's last known public appearance was on Aug. 23 in Tripoli. Many have speculated that he is hiding in Bani Walid. Like his father, he has been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity for the regime's bloody efforts to repress the uprising.
In Sabha, revolutionaries are based in the city's largest neighborhood, al-Gurtha. They have set up a national council office and checkpoints on roads leading to areas where Gadhafi loyalists refuse to hand over their weapons. Residents are able to cross checkpoints into Gadhafi loyalist-held areas, but only if they have family inside, and even then they risk being accused of being Gadhafi supporters.
Bashir said the area has no Gadhafi brigades, but there are worries that armed Gadhafi loyalists may ambush revolutionary forces from the desert.
In Sirte, commanders said Libyan revolutionary forces battled their way into the eastern outskirts in a bid to link up with anti-Gadhafi fighters besieging the city from the west. Anti-Gadhafi forces first attacked Sirte nearly two weeks ago, but have pulled back in the face of heavy rocket fire and loyalist snipers.
Abdel-Basit Haroun, a revolutionary field commander, said fighters reached a roundabout less than six miles (10 kilometers) east of the city center. He said the plan was for the forces from the east and west to meet inside Sirte.
"We are almost there, but the hard phase of the takeover has just begun," Haroun said in a telephone interview from the eastern city of Benghazi. "We stopped using heavy weapons because the residential areas are packed with families, children and women. We are also facing snipers all over the rooftops of tall buildings."
A revolutionary brigade commander on the city's western front, Al-Tohami Abu Zayan, said anti-Gadhafi forces can take Sirte "whenever we choose," but are holding back to protect civilians. He said fighters are in touch with civilians inside and working to secure them a way out of the city.
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