Gadhafi Forces Counterattack in Libya

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Forces loyal to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi launched a series of counterattacks Monday, including a surprise raid that killed 15 guards at a key oil refinery in the coastal city of Ras Lanuf.

A group of loyalist sympathizers working at the refinery set the facility on fire. The port was then targeted by a convoy of armed men. Ras Lanuf is deep inside territory controlled by Libya's National Transitional Council.

Battles also continued near Mr. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte and in parts of the oasis city of Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, Tripoli.

Also Monday, China officially recognized the NTC as the “ruling authority and representative of the Libyan people.” Algerian officials said late Sunday they would recognize the NTC as Libya's rightful authority once a “representative government is in place.”

Meanwhile, in neighboring Niger, government officials said 32 people close to Mr. Gadhafi have fled to the central African nation since September 2, including Mr. Gadhafi's son, Saadi. The U.S. State Department confirmed that authorities in Niger “are either in the process or have already brought” Saadi Gadhafi to the capital, Niamey, and intend to detain him.

On Sunday, Niger's justice minister said a convoy carrying 10 people, including Saadi, was traveling toward the northern city of Agadez where other Gadhafi loyalists are believed to have fled, including three generals and Mr. Gadhafi's security chief.

The justice minister said that Niger would fulfill its international obligations.

Moammar Gadhafi's whereabouts is still unknown. Late Saturday, Guinea Bissau's prime minister said his country would welcome the ousted leader should he seek exile in the West African country. Guinea Bissau had strong ties to Mr. Gadhafi's government when he was in power.

A message attributed to the former leader Monday urged Libyans to press ahead for his cause and not to surrender the nation to what he called “colonialism” and “foreign influence.” The message, read on Syria's Al-Rai TV, described Libya's new leaders as “traitors” willing to hand over the country's oil wealth to foreign interests.

Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said the NTC would form a more inclusive interim government within 10 days. NTC officials say they will move their government to the capital, Tripoli, as soon as the security situation will allow.

An explosion near Tripoli's international airport damaged an ammunition depot Monday. A guard told the French news agency the blast was caused by poorly stored ammunition.