The Libyan rebel leadership, mindful of the need to bring the conflict to a swift end to avoid a descent into chaos, announced a 2 million dinar ($1.7 million) bounty on the head of embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi today.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, leader of the National Transitional Council (NTC) that has been governing rebel territory from Benghazi, announced Tuesday that anyone who kills or captures Mr. Qaddafi will be pardoned for any past crimes, in an attempt to entice one of his inner circle to give him up. The money had been raised by businessmen, he said.
Mr. Jalil also said that if Qaddafi renounces his claim to power, the NTC would give him safe passage to any country that would accept him for exile. He said the NTC would allow the Libyan leader to go to a nation that is not a member of the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for Qaddafi’s arrest on charges of crimes against humanity – which in practice would allow Qaddafi to escape ICC trial.
“Sometimes the lesser evil prevents the larger evil,” said Jalil in a press conference at the rebel headquarters. He also called on NATO to continue air strikes on Qaddafi’s forces, saying that civilians were still in danger. He described an urgent humanitarian situation in Tripoli’s hospitals and called on Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups to provide relief.
The opposition fighters captured Qaddafi’s compound in the capital Tripoli Tuesday, but neither he nor his sons were found there. Rebel forces say they now control 90 percent of Tripoli, but Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and several other cities are still controlled by forces loyal to Qaddafi.
Jalil called on the residents of those towns to join the revolutionaries, promising that they would not be subject to retribution for their support of Qaddafi. Whether the leadership can hold the disparate rebel forces to honor that promise will be a key indicator for the coming transition period.
The rebel military spokesman Ahmed Bani said Tuesday that opposition forces were attempting to negotiate with tribal leaders in Sirte to persuade them to surrender, but that the tribes who were armed and control the city had refused to negotiate. Jalil contradicted him, however, saying, “We have no knowledge of those reports.”
“Qaddafi’s forces and the puppets of his accomplices are not finished yet,” said Jalil. “Therefore it is not far from reality to expect Qaddafi to present catastrophic events, especially as our southern borders are not yet in our control. And with money, anything can be done.”
Though the executive council of the NTC had been disbanded after the killing of the rebel military commander, Jalil said the members would keep their jobs for the next two weeks until a transitional government could be chosen. He said the NTC hopes to relocate to Tripoli in the coming week.