Cairo/Tripoli, March 16 (DPA) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were closing in on the city of Benghazi, the stronghold of the opposition, and all rebel-held cities would be reclaimed within days, his son Saif al-Islam said Wednesday.
“Military operations are over. Within 48 hours everything will be finished. Our forces are almost in Benghazi. Whatever the decision, it will be too late,” the younger Gaddafi said in an interview with the Paris-based Euronews TV channel.
His comments were dismissed by Benghazi resident Fathi, who wished to use his first name only.
“They haven’t even entered the city of Ajdabiya. Today they tried to hit Benghazi airport, but it wasn’t damaged,” Fathi told DPA.
Gaddafi’s forces have been using air and ground attacks to attempt to retake control of Brega and Ajdabiya, both northeastern cities a few hundred kilometres from Benghazi.
“He can only hit Benghazi with airstrikes. He cannot enter with ground troops because it’s tightly controlled by rebels,” said Fathi.
“We are confident and we all have our spirits up,” he added.
There were concerns however that Gaddafi loyalists inside Benghazi were feeding back information about the opposition. Up to 13 of these alleged infiltrators were arrested overnight Tuesday, according to Fathi.
Meanwhile, the northern city of Misurata, just east of the capital Tripoli, is under attack, according to broadcaster Al Arabiya.
Up to eight rebels have died in the last 24 hours of clashes, the broadcaster reported.
Late Tuesday, Gaddafi told supporters in Tripoli that he would “crush the enemy” and face the opposition forces that have claimed victory in several northeastern cities. He called the opposition “stray dogs”.
“We will liberate Libya,” said Gaddafi. “We are determined to defeat this conspiracy. Colonial imperialism will be defeated. France and the United States will be defeated. Britain will be defeated and freedom will prevail.”
His comments were made the same day that foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) nations failed to agree on military intervention in Libya to prevent his forces from violently reclaiming control of the country.
The G8 meeting Tuesday in Paris, however, left open the issue of a no-fly zone.
According to Libyan rebels, the opposition’s National Council is against foreign troops in the country, but would likely be in favour of foreign assistance to strike at Gaddafi’s air forces.
The uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year-long rule erupted Feb 15, with the opposition claiming that over 6,000 people have been killed since. This figure could not be independently verified.