Libyan rebels in Tripoli have been preparing to head south to Bani Walid, the town it is thought may have been sheltering Colonel Gaddafi, and where commanders for the interim government have focused their hunt for the former dictator.
Their base, once the capital’s military academy headquarters, is now the springboard for a push against loyalists they believe have been planning a fightback.
Gaddafi has warned of a long guerilla war. The rebels think he has been with his most prominent son.
“We received information confirming that Saif al-Islam left Bani Walid with his gang towards the south, travelling along a desert path,” rebel commander Mohamed al-Fessi told euronews.
That would appear to contradict Gaddafi’s spokesman, who claimed on Friday that Saif had been drumming up support close to Tripoli.
It is thought that loyalist fighters in Bani Walid may fear reprisals over their role in Gaddafi’s siege of Misrata.
The commander said: “I appeal to my tribe… I ask them to join the revolution immediately to avoid a bloodbath.”
Like Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, the area around Bani Walid, 150 kilometres south of Tripoli, is not in rebel control.
Tribal leaders in Bani Walid have reportedly agreed to allow rebel fighters in if they have family ties with the town.
But with loyalist military hierarchy said to have broken down, any orders may have little effect, and the rebels face an uncertain response.
There are reports that NATO has attacked Bani Walid and that people are without electricity and water.