With Libyan conflict ending, victims speak out and NATO says to stay
Laaska News Oct. 11,2011
BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — With the fighting in Libya coming to an end, despite the failure to find deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, the conflict’s victims are speaking out, and NATO says it will stay “as long as it takes” to protect civilians.
Wile NATO and the National Transitional Council (NTC) interim government remain focused on ending the conflict, the fledgling authorities are coming under pressure from the war’s victims.
Some 100 refugees in Libya rallied in Tripoli Monday, demanding assistance from the new authorities to return home. The protesters left Alawyneh in the Nafusa mountain range in western Libya in June when a major front between NTC fighters and Gaddafi’s forces opened there.
About 10,000 Alawyneh residents are estimated to have fled to cities such as Gharyan and Tripoli, where most of them have lived in temporary shelters in abandoned schools and factories.
One of the demonstrators, Mohammed Omar, said he did not want to see new conflicts in the country.
NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil admitted Sunday that housing and employment were currently the two most pressing challenges in Libya.
Jalil called on the citizens to stay composed and avoid protests while the interim government was still occupied with securing Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds.
He said the new Libyan authorities would turn its attention to the needs of the people in the future, while the priority currently would be given to healing the wounds caused by the war.
Jalil said Sunday that fighting possibly would end within the next week in Bani Walid and Sirte, the only remaining pro-Gaddafi strongholds.
Jalil told reporters the battle for Bani Walid, 180 km south of the capital, had entered its “last phase,” with NTC fighters now surrounding the town.
Libyan media reported the NTC had seized control of Bani Walid’s airport, a major defensive position for the Gaddafi forces due to its geography.
Meanwhile, Jalil confirmed the NTC was maintaining its assault on Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, about 450 km east of Tripoli, saying NTC fighters were still searching and clearing Gaddafi loyalists and snipers inside the city.
On Sunday, a NTC military commander told Xinhua the Ouagadougou conference center in downtown Sirte, a major center of fighting in recent days, had been captured and a hospital and a university at the main entrance to southeastern Sirte were also now under NTC control.
The NTC said Monday that Gaddafi was possibly hiding in a triangle of area in southwestern Libya that borders Niger and Algeria.
At a press conference in Tripoli, NTC member Moussa al-Koni said the area was outside the country’s control and might give Gaddafi and his loyalists room to move near the border.
“The best of my knowledge is that Gaddafi can only be in the triangle area in order to be able to escape and move quickly and safely to Algeria or Niger or Mali,” he said.
Al-Koni, who represents the Tuareg minority on the council, meanwhile dismissed reports the tribe was harboring members of the Gaddafi regime.
He called on the international community to use helicopters and unmanned aircraft to search for Gaddafi in the region, due to the lack of technical capabilities of the Tuareg military.
Meanwhile ,NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Romania Monday that the alliance would remain deployed in Libya as long as there were threats to the local civil population.
“We are in Libya to protect the civil population from attacks and we are going to keep our operation as long as it takes so that we make sure there are no threats to civilians,” Rasmussen told a joint press conference in Bucharest with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi at the 57th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
However, the NATO chief also said NATO’s mission in Libya was close to its end, and the alliance is ready to conclude its operation as soon as the situation on the field allows it.