Muammar Qaddafi and his sons have raised a new army of 12,000 soldiers – all fighters of loyal Touareg tribes of the Sahara, debkafile’s military sources report.
Hundreds of kilometers to the north, Libyan rebel troops clashed with Qaddafi loyalists in his home town of Sirte after reportedly entering the town from the west. Although rebel ranks are seriously divided, they derived encouragement from NATO's decision to extend its naval and air campaign in Libya by another 90 days to help them dislodge Qaddafi's troops from the cities they are still holding.
Saturday, Sept. 24, his daughter Aisha said in an audio recording that her father was in high spirits and fighting alongside his supporters. Last week, our sources report, a Touareg tribal council convened in Niger extended full protection to Qaddafi, his sons, his military chiefs and the still-loyal members of the ousted regime. Members of the rebel National Transitional Council were proclaimed enemies of the tribes.
Three days earlier, the NTC claimed the capture of the southern desert town of Sabha, even though they only reached its outskirts.
debkafile's military sources report that the nomadic Touareg roam freely through the Saharan regions which cover all of eastern Algeria, eastern Mali, western Niger, northern Burkina Faso and southern Libya, fiercely independent of all five governments. They are renowned as crack desert special operations fighters with extraordinary stamina, who can subsist on 100 grams of dried dates and a half liter of water for 24 hours while covering 100 kilometers on foot. They don't need to carry water because of their hereditary knowledge of the Sahara's hidden springs.
By recruiting them, Qaddafi has assured his forces and top officials safety of movement through all five African countries, out of range of NATO air strikes and rebel attacks.
Indeed, the Touareg tribal council sent warnings to the rulers of Niger, where some of Qaddafi's generals and troops have gone to ground, that if any harm comes to them or if they are arrested, the tribes will turn their guns on the Niamey government and its forces.
Taking advantage of their new freedom, the ousted ruler's son Saadi Qaddafi and his personal security director Gen. Mansour Daw, who arrived in Niger in early September at the head of a 200-truck military convoy, crossed back into Libya this week for an unknown destination. There were earlier reports of their detention in Niger.
On Sept. 7, debkafile’s intelligence sources located Qaddafi, his sons and several thousand fighters, at the Saharan oasis of Targan, a few hundred kilometers southwest of the Libyan oasis city of Jiffra. He is presumed to have moved on to a new hideout since then, closely guarded by his Touareg allies.
Another Qaddafi son, Khamis, commander of the 32nd Libyan Brigade whom the rebels and Western media reported killed, is said by our sources to be still in action against rebel forces at the head of this 3,000-strong elite unit.
Prevented by NATO air strikes and oversight from large-scale military movements among rebel strongholds, he has split them up into units of 20-30 fighters and scattered them around various battle zones for forays against rebel military and strategic key points. They have begun hit-and-run strikes in the towns of Brega, Ras Lanouf and Zawiya, unreported by NATO or rebel spokesmen.