National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders have reiterated in the past week that they want to avoid civilian bloodshed by giving the leaders of Sirte a chance to surrender. The residents of the city include members of Qaddafi’s tribe, and members of the elite Khamis Brigade, a military force commanded by Qaddafi’s son, are holding the city.
Qaddafi is still at large, though his wife and three of his adult children fled to Algeria yesterday, according to the Algerian Foreign Ministry. Libyans and outside observers have expressed concern that so long as Qaddafi remains at large, his loyalists are susceptible to striking back against the rebels and challenging their claims of sovereignty.
“But even if we liberate Sirte we are still looking for the head of the snake (Muammar Qaddafi),” says fighter Mohamed Salimi, who normally works at a paint factory.
The rebel fighters are sending scouting parties ahead, and have gone as far as the Red Valley, where they were less than five miles away from Qaddafi’s forces, they say.
But to avoid getting hit by NATO air strikes, they are holding the main line at this intersection on the coastal highway, says Khaled El Maghrabi, leader of the Benghazi Martyrs Brigade. Yards away were three burned and twisted hulks of vehicles the rebels said NATO had bombed Sunday. One, the remnants of a truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back, was still smoking.