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Libyan rebels said to have captured airport in Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte

Meanwhile, the ousted leader is reportedly being sheltered by nomadic tribesman in the Sahara desert.

Libyan revolutionary fighters are seen behind the country's new flag while gathering on the main road outside Sirte yesterday.
Libyan revolutionary fighters are seen behind the country's new flag while gathering on the main road outside Sirte yesterday.
Image: Bela Szandelszky/AP/Press Association Images

LIBYAN INTERIM GOVERNMENT forces have reportedly captured the airport in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s last remaining strongholds, Sirte, this afternoon.

Reuters cites a reporter on the scene as saying that National Transitional Council (NTC) forces have taken full control of the airport in Sirte which has so far resisted the onslaught of those who helped overthrow Gaddafi last month.

In other developments, the interim government believes that Gaddafi is being sheltered by Tuareg tribesman in his pay on Libya’s borders with Algeria and Tunisia.

The Guardian reports that officials from the NTC believe the man who most Libyans reportedly refer to as “the tyrant” or “the fugitive” may have most recently been in hiding near Ghadamis which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Tuaregs are a nomadic people who live in the Sahara desert in Libya, Algeria and Mali and who support Gaddafi because he pays them generously as well as having backed them during their rebellions against the governments of Mali and Niger in the 1970s.

Reuters quotes senior NTC military official Hisham Buhagiar as saying: ”There has been a fight between Tuareg tribesmen who are loyal to Gaddafi and Arabs living there (in the south). We are negotiating. The Gaddafi search is taking a different course.”

In other developments, Interpol has issued a red notice for Assaadi Gaddafi, one of the ousted Libyan leader’s sons “for allegedly misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.”

The 38-year-old was last seen in Niger according to Interpol.

The red notice effectively requests the arrest of wanted persons, in this case Assaadi Gaddafi, while advising subsequent extradition.

Such notices have already been issued for Gaddafi himself and his other son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi based on a request by the International Criminal Court which has charged both men with crimes against humanity.

- additional reporting from AP

Read: Libyan oil wells back in production for first time since outbreak of war >

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Hugh O'Connell

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