Libyan war ‘not over’ as Gadhafi’s son killed in battle, rebels say

Khamis Gadhafi, a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, was killed in a battle Sunday night according to a senior rebel commander — one of a series of developments emerging Monday related to the embattled Gadhafi family.

Mahdi al-Harati — the vice chairman of the rebel’s Military Council, the military wing of the National Transitional Council — said Khamis Gadhafi died in a battle with rebel forces between the villages of Tarunah and Bani Walid. The battleground is in northwest Libya, near Misrata.

Khamis Gadhafi, who was a senior military commander under his father, was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries, al-Harati said. He was then buried in the area by rebel forces, according to the rebel commander.

The report of his death Monday came as rebel fighters continued to try to quash the last pockets of resistance in Libya, and as other close kin of Moammar Gadhafi fled across the border into Algeria.

Gadhafi’s wife and three of his children are in Algeria, the nation’s Foreign Ministry said. His wife Safia, his daughter Aisha, two of his sons, Hannibal and Mohamed and their children, came there via the Libyan border.

Mahmoud al-Shammam, spokesman for the National Transitional Council, told CNN that if and when the NTC confirms the development, it will lodge a protest with the Algerian government and demand the people be handed over to Libya.

“There is still a need for the continuation of joint work in order to achieve the Libyan people’s goals to get rid of the remnants of the Gadhafi regime,” Qatar’s news agency reported, citing chiefs of staff in countries militarily involved with the Libyan conflict. The officials included those from Greece, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Jordan, Spain, Turkey and Norway.

Yet even with several Gadhafi family members seemingly out of Libya, rebel forces continue to face significant challenges as the foreign military leaders in Qatar underscored that the “war in Libya is not over.”

An example of the challenges faced by rebels was evident in the southwestern Libyan city of Sabha.

That’s where “freedom fighters” were running out of ammunition and were being outgunned by Moammar Gadhafi “mercenaries,” according to Abdel Karim Sabhwee, a rebel spokesman.

Sabhwee said on television that Gadhafi brigades were joined by reinforcements from other towns, from which they had been forced to flee. He said talks for a peaceful resolution have stalled and three rebels were killed in fighting on Sunday.

Long a stronghold for Gadhafi and his followers, Sabha has a military base and a thriving agricultural industry. Sabhwee reported food and water shortages and power outages in the region.

East of Tripoli, rebel fighters gave loyalists in Gadhafi’s hometown a deadline to disarm or face “liberation.”

Thousands of rebels gathered Sunday on the outskirts of the fallen dictator’s birthplace, Sirte, even as one of Gadhafi’s sons offered to negotiate an end to the monthslong war.

Gadhafi’s forces have been ordered to disarm and allow rebel fighters to enter the city, said Ahmed Bani, a National Transitional Council military spokesman.

The ultimatum follows days of fighting and reports of negotiations between rebels and loyalists to surrender the city.

Meanwhile, the interim government worked to move its political base from Benghazi in the east to Tripoli, the capital of the Gadhafi government.

France said its embassy in Tripoli was reopened Monday, and Britain said its personnel were preparing for a diplomatic presence there.

While the rebels work to consolidate their power, evidence emerged Sunday of atrocities allegedly committed by Gadhafi’s regime in its waning days of power with the discovery of a warehouse full of charred bodies.

Forces commanded by Gadhafi’s son Khamis killed an estimated 150 captive civilians as they retreated last week, hurling grenades and spraying bullets into a building full of men they had promised to release, a survivor said.

The massacre took place August 22, the survivor, Muneer Masoud Own, told CNN.

Rebels advancing on Tripoli discovered the bodies, charred beyond recognition, in a warehouse next to the military base. In addition, a resident who lives nearby told CNN that at least 22 bodies were found in a ditch near the base, but it was not clear whether those remains were connected to the killings at the warehouse.

CNN cannot independently verify the claims.

The base is on the main road from Tripoli to the city’s airport, which the rebels secured Friday after days of heavy fighting.

Own, 33, said he and his 30-year-old brother were held there for 18 days  after they were arrested by Gadhafi’s forces.

He said when he was first brought to the warehouse, about 60 to 70 others  were being held with him. He said some told him they had been there for up to six months. By the time the rebels advanced on Tripoli, the number of captives swelled to about 175, ranging in age from 17 to 70, Own said.

With rebel forces pushing into the capital on Monday, their guards told them they would be released by sunset, Own said. Instead, he said, just before sunset, the guards began shooting at the men inside, some of whom managed to escape.

He said he has been unable to locate his brother.

Bashir Own, who is not related to Muneer Masoud Own, said he worked as a volunteer removing the bodies from the warehouse. He estimated there were about 150 bodies.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International detailed an incident they believe is the same one reported by CNN.

Human Rights Watch, in a report Monday, described a deadly Khamis Brigade assault last week on detainees.

Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at HRW, said the group found the remains of at least 45 bodies in a warehouse, but he told CNN it is possible there were more deaths. The group found a survivor who said 153 detainees were at the site and 20 escaped from the attack.

Amnesty International said guards opened fire and threw hand grenades at detainees, according to interviews published on Friday with people who escaped. It said more than 23 people escaped and didn’t list a death toll.

Diana Eltahawy, an Amnesty researcher, told CNN on Monday said there had been 150 to 160 at the location. She said about 50 bodies were found at the site, and it’s not clear whether the rest escaped or were slain.

Gadhafi and the majority of his family have not been seen since rebels advanced on Tripoli, and are now being hunted by rebel forces after a six-month revolt backed by Western airpower.

Rebel fighters picked through his family’s seaside villas on Sunday, finding high-end stereo equipment, hot tubs and wines valued at hundreds of dollars a bottle, despite an official ban on alcohol.

They also found a horribly scarred Ethiopian maid who said she cared for the children of Gadhafi’s son Hannibal.

The maid, Shwygar Mullah, told CNN that Hannibal Gadhafi’s wife, Aline, twice expressed her displeasure with her work by scalding her with boiling water — then refused to get her medical attention, leaving her scalp and face covered in a mosaic of scars and raw wounds.

In one instance, Aline lost her temper when her daughter wouldn’t stop crying and Mullah refused to beat the child.

Another of the Gadhafi household staff, a man from Bangladesh who did not want to be identified, corroborated Mullah’s story and said he also was regularly beaten and slashed with knives.

The allegations by Mullah came the same day that another of Gadhafi’s sons, businessman Saadi Gadhafi, offered to negotiate an end to the war with the rebels. He has made previous offers, though this time it appeared he was prepared to cut loose his father and his brother, once assumed to be the senior Gadhafi’s heir.

“If (the rebels) agree to cooperate to save the country together (without my father and Saif) then it will be easy and fast. I promise!” Saadi Gadhafi said in an e-mail to CNN’s Nic Robertson.

Saadi Gadhafi said the opposition cannot “build a new country without having us in the table.”

Meanwhile, there has been controversy over Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of blowing up a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

A number of leading U.S. senators have been highly critical of Scotland’s decision to release al Megrahi from prison in 2009 on the grounds that he had cancer and was not likely to live more than three months, and there has been talk of seeking his extradition.

The Scottish government Monday took aim at critics of its decision to release him and send him back to Scotland.

“Speculation about al Megrahi in recent days has been unhelpful, unnecessary  and indeed ill-informed,” the government said in a statement released Monday.

“As has always been said, al Megrahi is dying of a terminal disease,” said the Scottish government and the local council that monitors him since his release.

Al Megrahi is under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa, surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip.

Libya’s National Transitional Council told CNN Monday that the decision on what to do with al Megrahi will be left to the still-to-be elected government of Libya.

Backing away from a statement by NTC Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi that “we will not give any Libyan citizen to the West,” Mahmoud Jibril, president of the executive bureau of the National Transitional Council, contacted CNN to
clarify the NTC’s position.

“Mr. Alagi cannot make a policy statement on behalf of the TNC or on behalf of the Libyan people, Jibril said. “This will be left to the Libyan people to decide in the future. The TNC is an interim body and it cannot decide major issues. This would be left to the elected government to take care of. Our main priority now is stability and order in the country and Tripoli. This is our utmost priority right now.”

(edition.cnn.com / 29.08.2011)

 

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