Libyans pledge democracy as they win Gaddafi billions
A boy gestures next to Kingdom of Libya flags during Friday prayers at Martyr"s Square in Tripoli, September 2, 2011. REUTERS

Libya's interim leader has made his first public speech in Tripoli, warning against reprisals after Moammar Gadhafi loyalists struck out at the revolutionaries pursuing them.

In an apparent attempt to disrupt a drive by the ruling National Transitional Council to seize the ousted leader's last bastions and revive the oil-based economy, pro-Gadhafi fighters killed 15 guards at an oil refinery Monday.

Despite the attack, NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil felt confident enough to address a crowd of about 10,000 people and used the speech to call for restraint.

We seek a state of law, prosperity and one where sharia (Islamic law) is the main source for legislation, and this requires many things and conditions, he said, adding that extremist ideology would not be tolerated.

A Syrian-based television station said on Monday it had received a new message from the fugitive Gadhafi, who has issued regular battle calls to his followers in the three weeks since Tripoli was overrun, but could not broadcast it for security reasons.

It quoted the ousted leader, who it said was still in Libya, as saying: We cannot give up Libya to colonization one more time ... There is nothing more to do except fight until victory.

Witnesses to the refinery attack said the assailants damaged the front gate of the facility, 20 km (13 miles) from the coastal town of Ras Lanuf, but not the plant itself, which is not fully operational.

Refinery worker Ramadan Abdel Qader, who had been shot in the foot, told Reuters that gunmen in 14 or 15 trucks had come from the direction of the Gadhafi-held coastal city of Sirte.

The assault occurred only hours after the NTC announced it had resumed some oil production, which had been all but halted since anti-Gadhafi protests turned into civil war in March.

The interim council is struggling to assert its control over the entire country and capture a handful of stubbornly defended pro-Gadhafi towns.

Human rights group Amnesty International warned on Tuesday that the security vacuum risked sending Libya into a bloody cycle of attacks and reprisals.

Abdel Jalil used his first public Tripoli speech to warn NTC forces against reprisals.

We need to open the courts to anyone who harmed the Libyan people in any way. The judicial system will decide, he said.


Senior NTC officials see scooping up Gadhafi and the members of his family who are still on the run as crucial to finally declaring victory in the seven-month old war.

Gadhafi's son Saadi arrived in neighboring Niger on Sunday after crossing the remote Sahara desert frontier. On Monday the U.S. State Department said that the government of Niger had promised to detain the former soccer player.

But a Niger government spokesman told Reuters that Saadi Gaddafi was only being watched for now.

Nothing has changed in the government's position. There is no international search for him. Like the others he is just under surveillance, the spokesman said, referring to other Gadhafi loyalists who have recently fled to Niger.

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 others are still on the run.

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 of the former government, but has promised to respect its commitments to the International Criminal Court, which wants to try Gadhafi, son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for war crimes.

NTC forces, which seized Tripoli on Aug. 23, said they were meeting fierce resistance on the fourth day of fighting for the Gadhafi-held desert town of Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of the capital, and were edging toward Sirte.

Libya's economy is almost entirely dependent on oil, and restarting production is crucial to restoring the economy. 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 Gadhafi. Western oil firms, including Italy's Eni and Austria's OMV, are keen to restore production.


In Bani Walid, fleeing residents reported intense street fighting while NATO warplanes could be heard overhead.

Families trapped there for weeks escaped after Gadhafi 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 United Nations says it is worried about the fate of civilians trapped inside besieged pro-Gadhafi towns.

Our big concern right now is Sirte, where we are receiving reports that there's no water and no electricity, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told Reuters in Dubai.

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.

Our fighters are from all over Libya. There was little control over them yesterday. Today we will control them better, said NTC commander Mohamed el-Fassi.

He said five NTC fighters were killed and 14 wounded in Sunday's clashes.

Some NTC combatants said they suspected local fighters of the Warfalla tribe, Libya's largest, of passing tips to Gaddafi forces in Bani Walid. We believe there are traitors among them, said Mohammed el Gahdi, from the coastal city of Khoms.

NTC military spokesman Ahmed Bani told reporters the plan for Bani Walid for now was to wait.

When our forces entered Bani Walid they found the brigades of Gadhafi using citizens as shields, he said, adding that missile launchers had been placed on the roofs of homes, making it impossible for NTC forces or NATO warplanes to strike.

(Reporting by Sherine El Madany in Ras Lanuf, Maria Golovnina north of Bani Walid, Emma Farge in Benghazi, William Maclean, Hisham el-Dani and Alexander Dziadosz in Tripoli, Mark John and Bate Felix in Niamey, Barry Malone and Sylvia Westall in Tunis, Keith Weir in London, Isabel Coles in Dubai and Andrew Quinn in Washington; writing by Alistair Lyon and Barry Malone; editing by Philippa Fletcher)