Gadhafi Loyalists Flee to Neighboring Niger

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Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi remained defiant Tuesday, vowing fight his way back power.

Gadhafi is "in excellent health, planning and organizing for the defense of Libya," Ibrahim told the Syrian TV station al-Rai.

"We are fighting and resisting for the sake of Libya and all Arabs," Ibrahim added. "We are still strong and capable of turning the tables on NATO."

But news that a large convoy of Gadhafi's soldiers has fled across the Libyan dessert into the neighboring Republic of Niger have cast doubt on such claims.

Niger provided a military escort to the convoy of 200 to 250 vehicles, French military sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

Whether the embattled leader will join the convoy en route to Burkina Faso, where he has been offered asylum, is yet unknown. Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, may also join the convoy, which could travel across the desert frontier without the cooperation of NATO forces.

NATO aircraft have been monitoring Libya's vast desert regions, making it virtually impossible for a convoy of that size to travel safely without some arrangement having been made.

Last week, Gadhafi's wife, daughter and two of his sons fled to neighboring Algeria.

Meanwhile, rebel forces have surrounded Bani Walid, about 90 miles south of Tripoli.  Pro-government fighters have taken up defensive positions in the town, one of the remaining Gadhafi holdouts.

Al Jazeera television reported earlier that rebel forces struck a deal to enter Bani Walid later Tuesday without a fight. According to the report, the arrangement should be finalized by midday.


Reuters contributed to this report.

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