(Updates refinery toll, adds details on Gaddafi message, China
RAS LANUF, Libya, Sept 12 Muammar Gaddafi
loyalists killed 17 guards outside an oil refinery on Monday in
an apparent attempt to disrupt a drive by Libya's new rulers to
seize the ousted ruler's last bastions and revive the oil-based
A Syrian-based television station that has broadcast
messages from Gaddafi in the past said he was still in Libya,
but it was unable to air a televised appearance for security
"It was meant to show the leader among his fighters and
people, leading the struggle from Libyan lands, and not from
Venezuela or Niger or anywhere else," Mishan Jabouri, owner of
the Arrai channel, told viewers.
He read out a text quoting Gaddafi as saying: "We cannot
give up Libya to colonisation one more time ... There is nothing
more to do except fight until victory."
Libya's new ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) says
that as long as Gaddafi remains on the run he is capable of
attracting followers to a dangerous insurgency -- of the kind
which the refinery attack might prefigure.
Gaddafi fighters in more than a dozen vehicles drove to the
refinery, 20 km (13 miles) from the coastal town of Ras Lanuf,
and fired on a checkpoint outside, witnesses said.
The refinery, which is not fully operational, was undamaged,
but the entrance, guarded by a blackened NTC tank, was littered
with used hand grenades.
A doctor at Ras Lanuf hospital said the death toll had risen
to 17 after one of two wounded people died.
"We heard firing and shelling at around 9 in the morning
from Gaddafi loyalists," refinery worker Ramadan Abdel Qader,
who had been shot in the foot, told Reuters.
The assault occurred only hours after the NTC announced it
had resumed some oil production, which had been all but halted
since anti-Gaddafi protests turned into civil war in March.
STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL
The NTC is struggling to assert its control over Libya and
capture a handful of stubbornly-defended Gaddafi-held towns.
NTC forces, which seized Tripoli on Aug. 23, said they were
meeting fierce resistance on the fourth day of fighting for the
desert town of Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the
capital, and were edging towards Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace.
Libya's economy depends almost entirely on oil and gas.
Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said on Sunday some oil
production had resumed, but would not say where or how much.
Libya holds Africa's largest crude oil reserves and sold
about 85 percent of its exports to Europe under Gaddafi. Western
oil firms, including Italy's Eni and Austria's OMV
, are keen to restore production.
Eni's chief executive told Reuters his priority was to
restart gas exports via a pipeline from Libya to Italy by
October or November. Resuming oil output was less urgent.
"We are by far the biggest player in Libya, both in oil and
in gas, so I came here with the idea of 'back to normal'," Paolo
Scaroni said during a visit to Tripoli.
China, which obtained three percent of its oil imports from
Libya last year, recognised the NTC as the country's "ruling
authority", ending weeks of uncertainty about when Beijing would
formally embrace those who overthrew Gaddafi.
In Bani Walid, fleeing residents reported intense street
fighting while NATO warplanes could be heard overhead.
Families trapped there for weeks escaped after Gaddafi
forces abandoned some checkpoints on the outskirts. Dozens of
cars packed with civilians streamed out of the area.
"We are leaving because of the rockets. They are falling
near civilian homes," said one resident, Ali Hussain.
The NTC has sent extra units to Bani Walid, but some
fighters said this only worsened tribal tensions between
fighters from other areas and those from the town.
NTC spokesman Ahmed Bani said the plan for Bani Walid for
now was to wait, accusing Gaddafi forces of using civilians as
human shields by putting missile launchers on their roofs, so
that NTC forces or NATO planes could not strike.
NATO has denied coordinating its air raids with NTC forces
but has acknowledged its planes have been bombing targets around
Bani Walid, Sirte and other Gaddafi redoubts.
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO would
pursue operations in Libya while a threat to civilians persists,
whether or not Gaddafi was found, but did not expect to play a
big role there once the conflict was over.
As pressure builds on Gaddafi's last strongholds, some of
his top officials and family members have fled abroad. His son
Saadi arrived in neighbouring Niger on Sunday after crossing the
remote Sahara desert frontier. Two other sons and Gaddafi's only
biological daughter have fled to Algeria. One son is reported to
have died in the war and three are still at large.
The NTC has said it will send a delegation to Niger to seek
the return of anyone wanted for crimes.
Niger, like Algeria, has cited humanitarian reasons for
accepting fugitives from the former government, but has promised
to respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court,
which wants to try Gaddafi, son Saif al-Islam and intelligence
chief Abdullah al-Senussi for war crimes.
In Tripoli, NTC fighters revealed they had captured
Gaddafi's foreign spy chief, Bouzaid Dorda.
Reuters reporters saw Dorda, a former prime minister who ran
Gaddafi's external spy service, held by a score of fighters in a
house in the capital's Zenata district on Sunday.
A lanky figure in a safari jacket, Dorda was sitting on a
sofa with an armed guard beside him. When a fighter asserted
that he had killed people, he replied defiantly: "Prove it."
(Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina north of Bani Walid,
Emma Farge in Benghazi, William Maclean, Hisham el-Dani,
Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas in Tripoli, Mark John and
Bate Felix in Niamey, Barry Malone and Sylvia Westall in Tunis,
Keith Weir in London and Isabel Coles in Dubai; Writing by