Qaddafi camp says fighting will go on until 'all of Libya is liberated'

Forces loyal to Col Muammar Qaddafi killed seven rebels in a counter-attack in a key town.

TRIPOLI and MISURATA // Forces loyal to Col Muammar Qaddafi killed seven rebels in a counter-attack in a key town yesterday, hospital sources said as the leader's camp vowed to push on with a war to crush a five-month uprising.

Col Qaddafi's son said the conflict would continue until the rebellion was wiped-out, whether or not Nato stops its bombing campaign, leaving little room for diplomacy to seek an end to a war that has killed thousands and divided Libya.

The rebels and their western backers kept up the pressure on the veteran leader as Ramadan began, with Nato bombing military targets and dropping leaflets over the capital calling on loyalists to give up.

The rebels, who have seized about half the country but frequently lose ground to counter-attacks by better-armed and trained Qaddafi forces and remain dogged by their own internal divisions, had been seeking to consolidate gains around Zlitan, a town 160km east of Tripoli.

A war that some thought might be over in weeks once Nato forces, backed by a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, started to bomb Col Qaddafi's military installations in March is instead dragging on into the hot summer and a month of fasting.

The rebels have launched an offensive in the Western Mountains, near Tunisia and from Misurata - Libya's third largest city some 210km east of the capital which the rebels clung onto after weeks of street-to-street fighting. They hope to march west through Zlitan and on to Tripoli.

But hospital sources in Misurata said that a counter-attack by Col Qaddafi forces yesterday morning had killed seven rebels and wounded another 65 fighters in Zlitan.

"No one should think that after all the sacrifices we have made, and the martyrdom of our sons, brothers and friends, we will stop fighting. Forget it," state television showed Saif Al Islam, the leader's son, saying to families displaced from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"Regardless of whether Nato leaves or not, the fighting will continue until all of Libya is liberated," he added, in comments that were made on Sunday but broadcast on Monday evening.

A UN peace envoy was dispatched to Libya last week and Col Qaddafi's government had previously said that it would only start talks if Nato stopped its bombing raids.

However, after talks with both sides, the envoy Abdel Elah Al Khatib left without making any visible progress and the world body said the two camps were far apart.

Published: August 3, 2011 04:00 AM

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