Libya rebels offer $1.6 million for Qaddafi dead or alive as his forces fight back in Tripoli

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Libyan rebels put a price of two million dinars ($1.67 million, 1.2 million euros) on the head of strongman Muammar Qaddafi, dead or alive, the head of the Transitional National Council said on Wednesday.

“The NTC supports the initiative of businessmen who are offering two million dinars for the capture of Muammar Qaddafi, dead or alive," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Tripoli.

Also, Abdel Jalil offered amnesty to “members of (Qaddafi’s) close circle who kill him or capture him.”

Qaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, meanwhile, said that Libyans must unite against NATO and stand by Qaddafi in the face of foreign interference.

“I tell the Libyan people to stand hand-in-hand against NATO,” she told the loyalist television channel Al Orouba by telephone. “I tell the Libyan people not to fear the armed forces. The leader is in the right.”

Fighting raged earlier Wednesday near Qaddafi’s Bab al-Azizya compound a day after it was captured by rebels, as loyalist troops staged a fightback and the strongman boasted he went on a walkabout.

Thick smoke hung over the Bab al-Azizya complex, where rebels and Qaddafi’s forces were fighting early afternoon with light weapons, heavy machineguns, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and mortars, an AFP reporter said.

Fighting also spread to the nearby Abu Slim area, where loyalist troops were on the attack, in marked contrast to Tuesday’s battle for Bab al-Azizya when they fled as the rebels breached the gates.

Rebel commanders said however they were determined to push the loyalist troops out of the area, which houses the Rixos hotel where around 30 foreign journalists remain trapped.

Many streets were deserted in the city center, with commanders saying dozens of pro-Qaddafi snipers have taken up positions.

“There are snipers above and around the perimeter of Bab al-Azizya; there are dozens of them but we don’t know where they are,” said the chief of a rebel group, Nuri Mohammed.

Two powerful blasts thought to be caused by an air attack rocked the capital early Wednesday as a NATO warplane flew overhead.

The whereabouts of the strongman himself and his family remained a mystery on Wednesday.

Rebel fighters said they had found no trace of Qaddafi when they swarmed through his compound on Tuesday, raiding his armory, raising their flag and ripping the head off a statue of the strongman.

“Bab al-Azizya is fully under our control now. Colonel Qaddafi and his sons were not there; there is nobody,” said military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Bani “No one knows where they are.”

Wherever he may indeed be, the strongman is still managing to get his messages out.

In a speech carried early Wednesday by the website of a television station headed by his son Seif al-Islam, he said he had abandoned his compound in a “tactical withdrawal” after it had been wrecked by NATO warplanes.

“Bab al-Azizya was nothing but a heap of rubble after it was the target of 64 NATO missiles and we withdrew from it for tactical reasons,” he said.

The speech gave no indication of where he had gone.

In a later audio message on Syria-based Arrai Oruba television station, Qaddafi boasted that he had taken to the streets of Tripoli without being recognized.

“I walked incognito, without anyone seeing me, and I saw youth ready to defend their city,” the strongman said, without specifying when he did his walkabout.

He also urged “the residents, the tribes, the elderly to go into the streets... and cleanse Tripoli of rats” - referring to the rebels.

Kadhafi spokesman Mussa Ibrahim claimed to the Arrai Oruba channel that more than 6,500 “volunteers” had arrived in Tripoli to fight for the regime, and called for more.

Insurgents, jumpy but jubilant and armed with assault rifles, combed the streets of the capital Wednesday for remnants of the regime.

“We are the champions. We’ve been dying for 42 years and now we are going to live,” said Sharif Sohail, a 34-year-old dentist who took up arms to patrol the city centre.

Other rebel fighters, some wrapped in Free Libya flags, some wearing flackjackets, manned checkpoints through the night, scrutinizing traffic by flashlight in neighborhoods without electricity.

“We are checking every car that passes,” Brahim Mukhtar, 27, told AFP at a main intersection near Souk al-Fatah. “We are guarding the streets.”

The attack on Qaddafi’s headquarters followed three days of fighting in the capital which Abdel Jalil said had left more than 400 killed and 2,000 wounded.

He did not specify if he was talking of both sides.