Libyan rebels claim 30,000 killed in conflict

Libyan rebels claim 30,000 killed in conflict

The Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council claimed Thursday that at least 30,000 people have died and 50,000 were wounded in the six-month conflict aimed at ousting Moamer Gaddafi, DPA reported.

The council's health minister, Naji Barakat, said: "I'll only have a complete count in several weeks."

He told the pro-rebel Free Libya TV, that the figures were partly based on reporting from hospitals, local officials and rebel commanders.

At least 4,000 people were still missing, either presumed dead or held prisoner in pro-Gaddafi towns, according to the television report.

The rebels recently said they had discovered mass graves of people allegedly killed by retreating Gaddafi troops.

The figures are hard to verify, with the rebels themselves giving varying numbers. In end-August, the Benghazi-based Quryna newspaper reported that about 50,000 people were killed in the conflict, until the rebels took over the capital Tripoli.

At the time, Hisham Abu Hajar, the rebel coordinator in Tripoli, said the toll was based on statistics by the Red Cross and the deaths of Gaddafi's fighters in the battles in Tripoli, Misurata and Western Mountains.

On Thursday, at least 10 rockets were fired by fighters believed to be loyal to Gaddafi at rebel forces encircling the town of Bani Walid, according to the Free Libya TV.

Loud explosions were heard along the desert frontline at Bani Walid, located 150 kilometres south-east of Tripoli. The barrage came hours after Gaddafi called on Libyans to take up arms against the rebels.

Gaddafi also dismissed reports that he had fled Libya to Niger, in an audio message broadcast Thursday on the Damascus-based Al-Rai television.

"To all my beloved Libyans, the Libyan land is yours and you need to defend it against all those traitors, the dogs, those that have been in Libya and are trying to take over the land," Gaddafi said.

On Monday, it was widely reported that a convoy of 200 cars crossed the desert into Niger carrying Gaddafi and his close aides.

"How many times do convoys transporting smugglers, traders and people cross the border every day for Sudan, Chad, Mali and Algeria?" Gaddafi said. "As if this was the first time a convoy was headed towards Niger."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi owner of Al-Rai television said Thursday he was in contact with Gaddafi, whose family was paying him for broadcasting the audio messages.

Mishaal al-Jabouri, who owns Al-Rai, told the German Press Agency dpa: "The morale of Gaddafi and his family is high and they are determined to continue resistance."

In another development, the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday asked Interpol for help in arresting Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and former intelligence services chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is also Gaddafi's brother-in-law.

"Arresting Gaddafi is (a) matter of time", said ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in a statement.

The court has charged all three with crimes against humanity. It was the first time that the ICC has issued arrest warrants during an ongoing conflict.

Meanwhile, the new governor of Libya's central bank, Qassim Azzuz, said the Gaddafi regime had sold about 20 per cent of the country's gold reserves to cover salaries during the conflict.

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