Aug. 25, 2011
TRIPOLI -- Another audio recording purportedly from longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was released Thursday afternoon as rebels fighters fired on Tripoli apartment buildings they believed were hiding Gadhafi and his sons. Elsewhere in the capital and near Gadhafi's hometown fierce fighting continued, showing that the loyalists were not giving in as easily as the rebels and the international community had hoped, now two days after Gadhafi's compound was overrun.
"Tripoli is for you, men and women. Go out, go out and free Tripoli. Destroy them wherever they are, fight [the rebels]," said the voice on the recording. "Let the crowds from everywhere march to Tripoli." The voice on the recording denounced the rebels as "rats, Crusaders, and unbelievers."
One fighter firing on the buildings they believed to be holding the Gadhafis told Reuters, "They are together. They are in a small hole."
"Today we finish. Today we will end that," he added, as Gadhafi fighters returned fire.
NATO and the rebels have said they believe Gadhafi is still in Libya, and on Thursday rebels and media entered the tunnels long-rumored to run under his famous Bab al-Aziziya compound looking for clues to his whereabouts. A group of businessmen have offered a $1.7 billion bounty on Gadhafi's head while the rebel council known as the National Transitional Council offered free passage out of the country.
An ABC News team explored the tunnels under the compound Thursday, finding an elaborate web that included bedrooms, offices and communications equipment. One of the tunnel exits let to a palatial home in the compound that had been burned earlier in the week. Gawkers destroyed or looted the odds and ends that had survived the fire.
Outside the Gadhafi compound, in the grass in the center of the road, were ten bloated bodies with their hands tied behind their backs. They were reportedly Gadhafi mercenaries, and seemed to have been executed. Elsewhere, Gadhafi loyalists may have engaged in their own summary killings. Al Jazeera reported Thursday that the bodies of 15 or more rebels were found executed in a Tripoli hospital.
The United Kingdom's defense secretary said Thursday that NATO is providing reconnaissance and intelligence in the search for Gadhafi but would not confirm reports that Britain's elite Special Air Service or Special Boat Service (the equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs) were involved.
A Pentagon spokesman said Thursday, however, that the U.S. military is not involved in the hunt for Gadhafi, and it is not a priority of the U.S./NATO mission.
"I've confirmed with folks at NATO and through the command structure that they are not involved in targeting any particular individual, that they are not involved in a manhunt," Col. Dave Lapan told reporters. "NATO itself and the U.S.'s part of NATO are not." Lapan said there were also no plans to put U.S. troops on the ground either now or after the conflict has ended.
Rebels Advance On Gadhafi's Hometown
After Gadhafi's fortress was taken over by rebel fighters on Tuesday, many had hoped the six-month-long uprising would come to a swift end. But small pockets of loyalists in the city kept the fight going around the city all day Wednesday and into Thursday, today primarily in the Abu Salim neighborhood and around the Corinthian Hotel, where many foreign journalists are staying.
On Wednesday afternoon, an ABC News team was caught behind a wall as sniper rounds hit the road around them. A rebel was shot in the neck and died.
Gadhafi "is indeed leading the battle for our freedom and independence," his spokesman told the Associated Press by telephone, adding that the man who led Libya for almost 42 years is in good spirits and would continue resisting for "weeks, months and years."
Meanwhile, rebel fighters advanced on the city of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, about halfway between Tripoli and the rebel capital Benghazi. Still flying the green Gadhafi flag, loyalists reportedly blocked the rebel advance about 60 miles away from the city.
"You know I thought, Hey, Gadhafi ran away, they got Tripoli, game over," a rebel fighter with a distinct American accent told the BBC. "They must believe in this guy, I don't know. But we got him in a corner now, it's just a matter of time."
In Italy, top NTC official Mahmoud Jibril made an urgent plea for financial assistance from foreign governments to stabilize Libya. The stop was part of a tour of foreign capitals asking them to free up billions of dollars of frozen Libyan assets.
Italy promised to unfreeze about $500 million. The United Nations is releasing $500 million after South Africa was persuaded to drop its objection. A further $1 billion is being sought at the UN for immediate humanitarian aid, while the U.S., France and the U.K. try to persuade China and Russia to back a resolution unfreezing all assets.
"This is an easy way for us to stand on the side of the Libyan people, to be supportive of their efforts to put in place a government that will acknowledge freedoms, that will acknowledge democracy," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.