Taking the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid is a secondary objective for Libya’s new rulers, the key being the oasis of Jufra, where there is a huge arms cache held by Moamer Kadhafi’s troops, a commander said on Friday.
“What is important is not Sirte or Bani Walid … what is important is to reach Jufra, where there are many stocks of arms and ammunition,” Mustafa al-Samu told AFP.
Concretely, he said there are “280 large stores of weapons and ammunition … the Europeans and Americans want the (revolutionary fighters) of Misrata to recover these arms to avoid their being sold and scattered in neighbouring countries.”
Three cities — Hun, Sokna and Waddan — are located in the oasis of Jufra, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of the port of Misrata, and are under the control of Kadhafi’s forces.
Samu said the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has “issued an ultimatum to the oasis for negotiations, which starts today (Friday) and will last no longer than 48 hours.”
He said “entering this area does not pose a problem and we hope this will happen peacefully.”
On Thursday, NATO said it had hit surface-to-air missile systems at near Waddan a day earlier.
Libya’s de facto premier Mahmud Jibril, however, warned in his first address in Tripoli Thursday that the hardest battles still lay ahead as fighters of the new rulers closed in on Kadhafi’s hometown, Sirte.
Misrata, 210 kilometres east of capital Tripoli, is the third largest Libyan city and has 12,000 to 18,000 fighters loyal to the new rulers, sources said, adding they were well armed and equipped with heavy weapons, tanks and artillery.