Forces loyal to waning Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi have until Saturday, September 3, to surrender or they will face an increased military assault, rebel leaders said Tuesday. "This window of opportunity closes with the end of the official holiday Eid al-Fitr," said Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel's Transitional National Council, selecting the end of the holy month of Ramadan as a symbolic deadline. "We can act decisively to end this in a military manner. We do not wish to do so, but we cannot wait any longer."
Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte remains a stronghold for the leader, but rebels threatened more violence should the city not surrender by the weekend. "The entry to Sirte and southern towns of Libya should be as peaceful as possible to avoid more bloodshed and destruction," said Jalil. Another rebel minister said of Qaddafi, "We have a good idea where he is," and stressed, "We don’t have any doubt that we will catch him." Jalil insisted that members of the falling regime will all receive fair trials.
NATO bombing campaigns have continued around Sirte for days, but a pro-Qaddafi brigade has refused to negotiate with rebels. "Qaddafi’s media brainwashed them," said a rebel minister, "and they think we’re coming to kill their people, steal their property and rape their women." A NATO spokesperson insisted, "The Qaddafi regime is collapsing and rapidly losing control on multiple fronts."
The capital city of Tripoli, the New York Times reports, has been declared fully secure by rebel leaders, but they have yet to arrive due to safety concerns. As a result, rivalries are growing between independent brigades with provincial interests. Although looting and violence have been minimal, and life is returning to normal, the makings of a "power vacuum" in local leadership "illustrates the challenge a new provisional government will face in trying to unify Libya’s fractious political landscape." It's the sort of thing that might allow a dictator to thrive for, say, 42 years.
Libyan Rebel Leader Jalil Gives Qaddafi Forces Until Sept. 3 to Surrender [Bloomberg]
Rebel leaders give Gaddafi forces five days to surrender [WP]
Tripoli Divided as Rebels Jostle to Fill Power Vacuum [NYT]