Gaddafi still commanding troops, NATO says
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NATO believes that Muammar Gaddafi still has some command over troops in Libya, and has vowed to continue bombing forces loyal to the fugitive leader until they are no longer a threat to civilians, a military spokesman said Tuesday.
AFP - NATO vowed Tuesday to keep bombing Moamer Kadhafi forces until they stop attacking civilians, warning that the elusive Libyan leader was still commanding some troops.
While rebels sought to talk Kadhafi troops into surrendering in their last stronghold of Sirte, the Western military alliance said its air strikes were now focused near the town, which is the birthplace of the runaway colonel.
Muammar Gaddafi's daughter Aisha, who fled to Libya with other family members, has given birth to a baby girl, an Algerian official told AFP on Tuesday.
"Despite the fall of the Kadhafi regime and the gradual return of security for many Libyans, NATO's mission is not finished yet," Colonel Roland Lavoie, the operation's military spokesman, told a news briefing via videolink from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.
"We remain fully committed to our mission and to keeping the pressure on the remnants of the Kadhafi regime until we can confidently say that the civilian population of Libya is no longer threatened," he said.
While the whereabouts of Kadhafi remain a mystery, Lavoie said the veteran strongman was still able to direct the movement of troops and weapons, operate radars and fire munitions such as surface-to-surface missiles.
"Essentially, he is displaying a capability still to exercise some level of command and control," the spokesman said days after rebels took control of Tripoli.
"The pro-Kadhafi troops that we see are not in total disarray, they are retreating in an orderly fashion, conceding ground and going to the second best position that they could hold to continue their warfare," he added.
NATO civilian spokesman Oana Lungescu said any decision to end the mission would be in the hands of the alliance's decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, based on the advice of commanders.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, whose country is a member of NATO but refused to participate in the mission, said he wanted the end of the war to be declared on Thursday at an international conference on Libya in Paris.
The alliance has shown no let-up against regime diehards and appears to have stepped up attacks in recent days around Sirte, 360 kilometres (225 miles) east of Tripoli.
In a daily operations update, NATO said it had destroyed 22 vehicles mounted with weapons, four radars, three command and control nodes, one anti-aircraft missile system and one surface-to-air missile system near Sirte on Monday.
"Our main area of attention is now the corridor between Bani Walid and the eastern edge of Sirte where pro-Kadhafi forces are maintaining a varying presence in several coastal cities and villages," Lavoie said.
Targets in Bani Walid, a town south to Tripoli, were also struck on Monday: two command and control nodes and one ammunition storage facility.
NATO welcomed the negotiations rebels have launched in a bid to convince Kadhafi loyalists to peacefully surrender in Sirte.
"We see these discussions as certainly an encouraging sign and we'll see how they evolve over the coming days," Lavoie said.
"I would not dismiss the possibility of a peaceful resolution in Sirte or in the villages around Sirte."