Libyan Rebels Push Toward Remaining Gadhafi Strongholds

Libya Rebels advance toward Moammar Gadhafi's hometown.

Sept. 3, 2011— -- Rebel fighters are looking to expand their control in Libya by closing in on one of the last strongholds of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters.

Opposition leaders have said rebel forces will lay siege to pro-Gadhafi cities until a deadline for their surrender expires next week. The anti-Gadhafi troops have given the cities of Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha an ultimatum, and say they're hopeful the cities will surrender without an attack.

Fighters are moving into position for an assault on Bani Walid, and Associated Press reporters traveling with the rebel units say so far they haven't encountered any resistance.

A rebel commander says the town has been given until Sunday to surrender, or else the rebels will enter with force.

The rebels say they believe Gadhafi is in one of the towns still loyal to him. Rebels have been searching for Gadhafi since taking control of most of Tripoli on Aug. 20 and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the new military commander for Tripoli, told ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman they are confident Gadhafi is in the triangle of Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabah.

Rebels this week breached the expansive Gadhafi compound in Tripoli, destroying the signs of opulence that marked the 42-year leadership of Gadhafi. They found no signs of him or his family, but did find a network of long, secret tunnels leading out of the compound.

Some members of the Gadhafi family have fled Libya, while others are believed to still be in the country.

From hiding, Gadhafi has released a number of audio broadcasts, urging those loyal to him to stay defiant against the rebels. He warned his opponents that his supporters are armed and will not surrender.

Rebel leaders say finding Gadhafi is crucial to their efforts to stabilize the country. A Libyan official says at least five foreign oil and gas companies have returned to the country to try to get production going again.

Libya's economic future will likely be heavily reliant on its lucrative oil and gas sectors. The six-month war between rebels and forces loyal to Gadhafi has seriously damaged infrastructure across the country, creating a humanitarian crisis as people face severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

The international community, including the United States, the United Nations and some NATO member states, has begun releasing some of Libya's money to the rebels to address some of the humanitarian issues.

There is potentially $100 billion available to the rebels; the funds were frozen in order to prevent Gadhafi from using them against the opposition.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday the United Nations will lead the international effort to tackle the country's immediate needs, as well as help build a democratic and stable nation once the current conflict is over.

CIA and Libyan Intelligence Agencies worked together

With Tripoli largely in opposition control, rebels have been digging through abandoned offices and Gadhafi buildings and turning up some surprising information, including today's discovery of papers that say the CIA worked closely with Gadhafi's intelligence services in the rendition of terror suspects to Libya for interrogation.

According to documents seen by The Associated Press, the CIA was one of a number of foreign intelligence services that worked with Libya's agencies in the war on terror.

The documents provide new details on the ties between Libya and Western countries, including many that backed the NATO attacks that helped Libya's rebels force Gadhafi from power.

The security documents show intimate links between the CIA and Gadhafi's ousted regime, including intelligence-sharing and handing over suspected terrorists to Libya for interrogation.

One notable case is that of the new opposition military commander in Tripoli, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, who says he was tortured by CIA agents at a secret prison, then returned to Libya.

Two of the documents discovered in the abandoned security building appear to be American correspondence to Libyan officials in March 2004 to arrange Belhaj's rendition.

The documents say he would be flown from Malaysia to Libya, and asks for Libya government agents to accompany him, as well as requests American "access to [Belhaj] for debriefing purposes once he is in your custody," according to the AP.

The document reportedly says the Americans wanted assurance that he would be treated humanely and his human rights would be respected.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood told the AP that "it can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats," but declined to comment on any specific allegation related to the documents.

This latest discovery opens a window into the West's efforts to turn Libya's leader from foe to ally, and provides new details about the depth of the Bush adminsitration's involvement with authoritarian governments in the war on terror, revelations that could spark tensions between Washington and the new Libyan leaders who have pushed Gadhafi out of power in hopes of creating a new government for the country.