Fighters Renew Attack on Surt, Qaddafi’s Hometown

Fighters Renew Attack on Surt, Qaddafi’s Hometown
# 25 September 2011 00:55 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Fighters trying to root out loyalists of the fugitive Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi renewed their attack on his hometown, Surt, on Saturday as his daughter Aisha became the latest family member to broadcast a recorded taunt of the provisional authorities struggling to replace his government, APA reports quoting the New York Times. Here in the capital, meanwhile, an unexplained fire in the hangar of a naval base sent giant clouds of smoke over the harbor on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses leaving the area and former rebel fighters guarding the site said car grease and old tires appeared to be on fire, though some reports indicated the site might have been an ammunition depot. Some fighters tried to stop journalists from photographing the flames.

The cause of the fire could not be determined. But extinguishing it safely appeared to pose a new challenge for the fledgling government still struggling to get on its feet and restore basic services.

“God is great!” a firefighter shouted from his truck, flashing a victory sign as he sped away from the still-burning hangar.

A few hundred miles to the east, there were reports that fighters aligned with the provisional government had once again battled their way inside Surt after retreating just days before. NATO warplanes were heard overhead, according to a report from Reuters.

But the loyalists inside continued to put up stiff resistance with rockets, mortars and gunfire. Along with the Western city of Bani Walid and some parts of the southern desert town of Sabha, Surt is one of Colonel Qaddafi’s last bastions of support and possible places of refuge within Libya.

As the fighters were preparing to renew their assault, Ms. Qaddafi said in the recorded message broadcast Friday that her father was fighting on against the forces that unseated his government.

“I assure you, he is fine, a believer in God, in good spirits, is carrying his gun and is fighting side by side with the warriors,” she said in the message, according to a translation by The Associated Press. It was broadcast over the Syrian television station Al Rai, the favorite media outlet of the Qaddafi family since it lost control of Libyan state television, and offered no clues to her father’s whereabouts.

Ms. Qaddafi’s message is the latest in a series of taunts of the post-Qaddafi provisional government delivered in recorded statements by Colonel Qaddafi and his family, usually from unknown locations. It is her first public statement since she fled with her mother and two brothers to Algeria after the fall of Tripoli.

Its broadcast suggested that the Qaddafi family still retained enough resources to coordinate its propaganda efforts from remote locations across borders.

At least two of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons, Seif al-Islam and Muatassim, are believed to remain in Libya. His son Khamis may remain as well, though there have been unconfirmed reports of his death. Both Khamis and Muatassim led militias defending Colonel Qaddafi’s government.

Ms. Qaddafi warned the Libyan people not to trust their new leaders, who she said had betrayed her father.

“Those who have betrayed the pledge they offered, how come they won’t betray you?” she said, presumably alluding to members of the provisional government council who previously worked in her father’s government.