TRIPOLI, Libya — In a fiery broadcast from hiding, Moammar Gadhafi warned Thursday that loyalist tribes in his main strongholds were armed and preparing for battle, a show of defiance hours after rebels extended a deadline for the surrender of the fugitive leader’s hometown.
The rebels, who have been moving troops toward remaining Gadhafi bastions across Libya, had shifted the deadline for the town of Sirte in hopes of avoiding the bloodshed that met their attack on Tripoli.
“We want to save our fighters and not lose a single one in battles with Gadhafi’s forces,” said Mohammed al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi. “In the end, we will get Sirte, even if we have to cut water and electricity” and let NATO pound it with airstrikes.
The rebels say the advance on Sirte is going well, and that their forces have already captured one nearby city. They also say they are closing in on Gadhafi, who came to power 42 years ago Thursday in a military coup that toppled King Idris.
The rebels have been hunting for Gadhafi since he was forced into hiding after they swept into Tripoli on Aug. 20 and gained control of most of the capital after days of fierce fighting.
“We won’t surrender again; we are not women. We will keep fighting,” Gadhafi said in a blustery tone in the audio statement, broadcast by Syrian-based Al-Rai TV. His voice was recognizable, and Al-Rai has previously broadcast statements by Gadhafi and his sons.
In a second late-night audio also broadcast on the Syrian channel, Gadhafi spoke in more measured tones and called for a long insurgency.
“We will fight them everywhere,” he said. “We will burn the ground under their feet. … Get ready to fight the occupation.”
He said the NAYO alliance is trying to occupy Libya and steal its oil.
The rebels, who have effectively ended Gadhafi’s rule, dismiss his threats as empty rhetoric.
The rebels believe he may be in one of their three key targets. The rebel fighters, backed by NATO airstrikes, have been pushing in recent days toward Sirte as well as toward Bani Walid, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, and the southern city of Sabha.
All three were given a Saturday deadline to surrender. While the deadline extension was officially only for Sirte, rebels said it would also apply to Bani Walid and Sabha.View Entire Story
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