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Gaddafi hometown bombed, rebels poised to attack

27 August, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya: Libyan rebel soldiers loot weapons from an ex-Gaddafi military compound as they advance their position towards pro-Gaddafi loyalists o
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TRIPOLI: British warplanes bombed a bunker in Muammar Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirte as rebel fighters prepared on Friday to attack the town, one of the last major regime holdouts east of Tripoli.

As insurgent leaders moved into Tripoli to begin a political transition, the African Union called for that process to be "inclusive."

And the UN human rights chief warned against assassinating Gaddafi, whose whereabouts are unknown and who has a $1.7 million rebel price on his head.

"At around midnight, a formation of Tornado GR4s ... fired a salvo of Storm Shadow precision-guided missiles against a large headquarters bunker in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte," the Defence Ministry said in London. Speculation that Gaddafi might have found refuge in the town, which lies 360 kilometres east of Tripoli, has not been confirmed.

NATO said on Friday its planes had hit 29 armed vehicles and a "command and control node" in the vicinity of Sirte as they were advancing toward the rebel-held port of Misrata, about 140 kilometres away.

Regime forces in Sirte have been regularly targeted since the start of the campaign, an official said, but it is in sharp focus now because "it's one of the last places he (Gaddafi) has control of."

"It has always been a stronghold of the regime and now the remnants of the regime are using it to launch attacks," the official said.

"Misrata is one of those cities we have to protect. This regime, no matter what state it's in, is still capable of killing civilians."

Diehards of Gaddafi, whose son Seif al-Islam vowed from the start that loyalists would fight "to the last bullet", are still trying to reconstitute NATO-decimated weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, the official said.

"This large convoy is a very threatening move, as threatening as launching a missile."

"This is an extremely desperate and dangerous remnant of a former regime and they are obviously desperately trying to disrupt the fact that the Libyan people have started to take responsibility for their own country."

On Thursday, the National Transitional Council (NTC) moved many of its top figures from their Benghazi base, just days after rebel fighters overran Tripoli, going on to capture Gaddafi's headquarters and vast swathes of the capital.

NTC official Ali Tarhuni said their leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, would arrive as soon as the security situation permitted.

Abdel Nagib Mlegta, head of operations for the takeover of the capital said his fighters had control of 95 percent of the capital, with just a few pockets of resistance left in the districts of Salah al-Din and Abu Slim.

The rebel chief hoped to control Tripoli fully and capture Gaddafi within 72 hours.

Mlegta alleged that forces loyal to Gaddafi killed more than 150 prisoners with grenades in a "mass murder" as they fled the rebel takeover of Tripoli.

But Amnesty International said on Friday that both sides had been guilty of abuses.

In Geneva, the UN human rights chief warned against bounty hunters who may be seeking to kill Gaddafi, saying assassinations are "not within the rule of law".

"That applies to Gaddafi as well as everybody else," said spokesman Rupert Colville in a response to a question about the reward for Gaddafi, dead or alive. Colville said the "best solution" would be to capture Gaddafi alive and follow through on an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for suspected crimes against humanity.

End.

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