Colonel Gaddafi’s spokesman says the fugitive leader is still in Libya and surrounded by people prepared to protect him – although he doesn’t know personally exactly where he is.
His comments came as the interim government insisted rebels were closing in on Gaddafi’s last bastions of support.
“We are about to liberate Bani Walid, but we try to resolve the situation peacefully because they are our people. We do not want to fight with our people,” said Salah, an anti-Gaddafi fighter on the road to the desert city that is still in the hands of loyalists.
There are conflicting signals as to how quickly the rebels intend to move against Bani Walid. The National Transitional Council has re-affirmed a week-long grace period to avoid bloodshed.
But a rebel commander said their patience was exhausted and they were ready to attack.
Meanwhile Gaddafi’s spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said in a phone interview that the desert city would be no pushover.
“Bani Walid is a major city hosting one of the biggest tribes in Libya who have declared their allegiance to the leader and they refused all approaches for negotiation with the Transitional Council,” he said.
With rebels besieging the last two important towns still in loyalist hands, their leaders say Gaddafi’s capture or death is essential for the conflict to be considered over.
Along the coast from Sirte, opposition forces took control of a territory yesterday that had been in loyalist hands.
They said they were in high spirits and had plans to attack.
NATO was also in action in the area, with the sound of airstrikes and explosions ringing out near Gaddafi’s home town.