By Ria Novosti
(RFE/RL) — Forces linked to Libya’s interim government say they are poised to attack the town of Bani Walid, one of the last reputed strongholds of fighters loyal to ousted Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
The forces of the NATO-backed National Transitional Council say they are prepared to enter Bani Walid unless the town, located some 150 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, surrenders and accepts that Qaddafi’s rule is over.
A spokesman for Qaddafi, Moussa Ibrahim, said he did not believe the residents of Bani Walid would surrender, telling Reuters news agency that the dominant Warfalla tribe in the area was still loyal to Qaddafi.
Asked if Qaddafi was in Bani Walid, Ibrahim told Reuters by telephone: “I personally do not know where he (Qaddafi) is right now, but I know very much that he is in the country — this is for sure — and he is in a safe place surrounded by many people who are prepared to protect him.”
Forces of the interim government are also reported to be advancing toward pro-Qaddafi forces in Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and in Sabha.
Meanwhile, documents reportedly have been found showing ties between Qaddafi’s intelligence agencies and their U.S. and British counterparts in recent years.
The documents, obtained by the international group Human Rights Watch (HRW), were said to have been found at a Libyan security agency building in Tripoli.
HRW’s Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert said the documents include correspondence between CIA and MI6 chiefs to Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa.
“It’s very clear from these documents that both the CIA and MI6 were on very friendly terms with Moussa Koussa,” Bouckaert said. “The letters are often addressed ‘Dear Moussa’. And they are from top officials in the CIA.”
Koussa defected early in the uprising against Qaddafi’s regime. Rights groups accuse him of involvement in atrocities.
Bouckaert said: “These archives are answers to many questions for the Libyan people.”
Some of the documents are said to show that the U.S. and British spy agencies helped Qaddafi’s regime persecute Libyan dissidents. Others are said to reveal details about the U.S. transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation — a practice known as rendition.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment on any specific allegation related to the documents, but said: “It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”
In another development, an Islamist commander who has been put in charge of controlling Tripoli since the fall of Qaddafi has denied having links to Al-Qaeda.
In an interview with the French daily “Le Monde,” Abdel Hakim Belhadj acknowledged having fought alongside Al-Qaeda jihadists in Afghanistan, but said that his Libyan group does not share the ideology of Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May.
Belhadj also accused U.S. CIA operatives of torturing him in Bangkok.