Residents poured out of the Libyan oasis town of Bani Walid on Monday amid a lull in a rebel offensive aimed at dislodging loyalist forces from the Qaddafi stronghold.
But many residents remained trapped inside the desert town, 180 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, for want of fuel for their vehicles, those fleeing said. Dozens of cars and pick-ups crammed with families desperate to escape the fighting crossed the front lines and entered territory held by forces loyal to the new government.
Fighters for the rebel caretaker government said they were giving civilians in Bani Walid a chance to get out before launching a new offensive reinforced by fighters from all over Libya.
On Monday rebel commanders, bogged down in heavy street-to-street fighting, admitted they had vastly underestimated the number of loyalists holding Bani Walid and that discipline in their fractious ranks had started to slip.
Observers suggest the lull in the fighting may have been necessary, in addition to allowing residents to flee the town, in order for commanders on the scene to regroup and negotiate amongst themselves.
On Monday it was widely reported local fighters and fighters sent by the NTC in Tripoli had been unable to work together due to infighting and mistrust, with accusations of glory seeking, betrayal, and incompetence being leveled.
Meanwhile, a brief message attributed to Qaddafi was read yesterday on Syria's Al Rai TV by its owner Mishan Al Jabouri, a former Iraqi lawmaker. The statement described the opposition forces as traitors and willing to turn over Libya's oil riches to foreign interests.
The statement came shortly after a guerilla raid by Qaddafi forces on the oil refinery in Ras Lanuf killing at least 15 security personnel just as the interim rebel government restarted Libya's stalled oil industry in hopes of solving their nascent government's desperate liquidity crisis.
Qaddafi's remains at large, but his followers claim he is still in Libya. Some of his family members have fled to neighboring Niger as revolutionaries try to storm the remaining pro-Qaddafi strongholds. And the
In a significant development, Algeria said it was to recognize the new Libyan government.
Algeria was close to the deposed Libyan dictator and has been a lone hold-out among Arab countries in recognizing the NTC that overthrew the longtime Libyan ruler.
"I believe that we have been clear to our brothers in the NTC about the necessity of forming a government representing all Libyans," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said. Relations between the revolutionaries and Algeria have been strained especially after it gave refuge to Qaddafi's wife, daughter and two of his sons.