Price on Gaddafi's head but hostages freed

 
City A.M. Reporter
Libyan rebels have offered a million-dollar bounty for the fugitive Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday, after he urged his men to carry on a battle that kept the capital in a state of fear.

A day after rebel forces overran Gaddafi's Tripoli headquarters and trashed the symbols of his 42-year dictatorship, rocket and machinegun fire from pockets of loyalists kept the irregular fighters at bay as they tried to hunt out the dictator and his sons.

But in one sign of good news, a group of foreign journalists were freed after being held hostage in Tripoli's Rixos hotel for days by armed men loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The journalists said that representatives of the International Committee Red Cross came to the hotel and arranged for them to leave and provided transport away from the hotel.

Western leaders who backed the revolt with NATO air power remain wary of declaring outright victory while the 69-year-old Gaddafi is at large. He issued a rambling but defiant audio message overnight to remaining bastions of his supporters, some of whom may be tempted to mount an Iraq-style insurgency.

But the international powers and the rebel government-in-waiting in the eastern city of Benghazi lost no time in making arrangements for a handover of Libya's substantial foreign assets.

Funds will be required to bring relief to war-battered towns and to develop oil reserves that can make Libya rich.

France was working with Britain and other allies to draft a new United Nations resolution intended to ease sanctions and asset freezes imposed on Libya when Gaddafi was in charge. Rebels also spoke of restarting oil export facilities soon.

In Benghazi, the chairman of the National Council gave a sense of urgency to finding Gaddafi, who the rebels believe may still be in or around Tripoli, having left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital before it fell on Tuesday.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who was himself one of Gaddafi's ministers before defecting in February, said the incoming administration would amnesty any remaining member of Gaddafi's entourage who killed or captured him.

A local businessman, he added, was offering two million dinars - or about $1.3m (£787m) - to anyone who caught him.

"To any of his inner circle who kill Gaddafi or capture him, society will give amnesty or pardon for any crime he has committed," Abdel Jalil told a news conference in Benghazi.