Libyan rebels yesterday rejected an offer by former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to negotiate and said they have captured the eastern town of Bin Jawwad, forcing regime loyalists to flee after days of fighting.
The opposition fighters have threatened to advance westward on the coastal road toward Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte if tribal leaders there don’t agree to surrender peacefully. The fighting in the east comes as the rebels consolidated their hold on the capital, Tripoli, about 560km west of Bin Jawwad.
Mohammed al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebels on the eastern frontlines, said they captured Bin Jawwad at about 10pm on Saturday and deployed forces in the city after days of fighting. He said Qaddafi’s forces fled westward and were likely to join regime forces in Sirte, the headquarters of Qaddafi’s tribe.
With Qaddafi on the run, his spokesman Moussa Ibrahim called reporters on Saturday to say that Qaddafi is still in Libya and offering to have his son, al-Saadi, lead talks with the rebels on forming a transitional government.
Ibrahim said he saw Qaddafi on Friday in Libya, but would not give more details.
Mahmoud Shammam, the -information minister in the rebels’ transitional council, rejected the offer.
“I would like to state very clearly, we don’t recognize them. We are looking at them as criminals. We are going to arrest them very soon,” Shammam said at a news conference. “Talking about negotiations is a daydream for what remains of the dictatorship.”
Meanwhile, more signs emerged of arbitrary killings of detainees and civilians by Libyan forces as the rebels swept into Tripoli earlier last week, including about 50 charred corpses found in a makeshift lockup near a military base that had been run by the Khamis Brigade, an elite unit commanded by Qaddafi’s son, Khamis.
The killings by Qaddafi troops appeared to have taken place in the past week, as rebel fighters gradually took control of Tripoli, according to a witness and international rights groups.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said yesterday it has evidence indicating that Qaddafi loyalists killed at least 17 detainees and arbitrarily executed dozens of civilians as rebels moved into Tripoli.
Reporters touring Tripoli have found clusters of decomposing corpses in several areas of the capital, including a roundabout near Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya stronghold.