Alexandre Meneghini  /  AP
A former rebel fighter looks through binoculars at a checkpoint near Bani Walid, Libya, on Monday. The protracted battle over the loyalist bastions of Bani Walid and Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, has dashed hopes of a speedy declaration of liberation.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/12/2011 8:01:10 PM ET 2011-09-13T00:01:10

Fugitive leader Moammar Gadhafi urged his followers to fight on Monday in a brief message of defiance that carried wider resonance after twin attacks on a key oil hub and fierce resistance in a loyalist stronghold by fighters believed led by the former Libyan ruler's son.

The back-to-back strikes at the Ras Lanouf oil facility — killing at least 15 anti-Gadhafi forces — showed that blows can still be inflicted deep within territory held by the Western-backed opposition, which is struggling to break through the last Gadhafi bastions.

Story: Official: Gadhafi's son on way to Niger capital

Opposition reinforcements, including convoys of pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, converged outside the loyalist-held town of Bani Walid for a possible intensified assault after several failed attempts to drive out pro-Gadhafi forces. One opposition commander claimed Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam is leading loyalist forces massed in the town, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

It's unlikely that pro-Gadhafi fighters can withstand a sustained siege on the town. But it's unclear whether the showdowns in the last loyalist strongholds — including Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte — will mark a crippling end or open a new phase of an underground insurgency and hit-and-run attacks against Libya's new leadership.

'We will not be ruled'
"We will not be ruled after we were the masters," said the brief statement attributed to Gadhafi that was read on Syria's Al-Rai TV by its owner Mishan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi lawmaker and Gadhafi supporter.

The message described Libya's new leaders as "traitors" who are willing to turn over the country's oil riches to foreign interests.

"We will not hand Libya to colonialism, once again, as the traitors want," said the statement, which pledged to fight against the "coup."

The message "was meant to show the leader among his fighters and people, leading the struggle from Libyan lands, and not from Venezuela or Niger or anywhere else," Jabouri told viewers.

The firebrand words from Gadhafi contrast sharply with the staggering losses for his regime in recent weeks, including being driven from the capital Tripoli and left with only a handful of strongholds.

Video: Gadhafi stronghold under fire (on this page)

Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown, but his followers claim he is still in Libya. Some of his family members have fled to neighboring Algeria and others to Niger, most recently his son al-Saadi .

In Tripoli, Libya's interim government chief, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, made his first speech to a crowd of about 10,000 in the capital on Monday — a sign of growing confidence from the former rebels.

The chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council called on the movement's fighters not to engage in reprisal attacks against remnants of the Gaddafi government.

"We need to open the courts to anyone who harmed the Libyan people in any way. The judicial system will decide," he told the crowd, calling for no attacks on former Gaddafi allies. "We seek a state of law, prosperity and one where sharia is the main source for legislation, and this requires many things and conditions," he said.

Abdel Jalil had been running the provisional administration from the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that overthrew Gadhafi in late August.

Meanwhile, Brussels-based rights group Amnesty International issued a report alleging the rebels fighting to topple Gadhafi committed unlawful killings and torture.

The 100-plus page report, based on three months of investigation in Libya, draws no equivalency between the crimes of Gadhafi loyalists and those of the former rebels, who now hold power in Tripoli: The Gadhafi forces' crimes were greater, the list of them is longer, and they may have amounted to crimes against humanity, the report said.

Loyalists strike back
Although Gadhafi's opponents now hold sway over most of Libya — and remain backed by NATO airstrikes — there are signs that the Libyan strongman's backers can still strike back.

At the important oil terminal at Ras Lanouf, suspected loyalists staged back-to-back attacks that began with saboteurs setting fires and then shifted to a convoy of gunmen riding in from the desert.

Col. Hamid al-Hasi, the commander for anti-Gadhafi forces in eastern Libya, said a group of 15 employees set fire to the facility, located on the Mediterranean coast about 380 miles (615 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

In a possibly coordinated attack, the port was then targeted by a convoy of armed men apparently based in a refugee camp about 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of Ras Lanouf.

The supervisor of the Ras Lanouf hospital, Dr. Ahmad El-Gnashi, said a total of 15 guards were killed and two injured.

Former rebels, meanwhile, have been facing stiff resistance from Gadhafi supporters in Bani Walid since last week.

"The forces are not from Bani Walid but from all over Libya," said Mubarak al-Saleh, an opposition political envoy from Bani Walid who claimed Gadhafi's son Seif is in charge of loyalists in the town. "We lost many people in the battle."

Dozens of cars loaded with Libyan families and personal belongings streamed out of the town in anticipation of a fresh assault.

'Afraid to leave'
"The fighting will be very bad," said Fadila Salim as she drove out of Bani Walid. Her husband, Mohammed Ibrahim, said there is no electricity, no water and shops are running out of food. He said many are "stuck in their houses and afraid to leave."

Khairiyah al-Mahdi, a 40-year-old housewife, was fleeing the town along with her husband, six daughters and two sons.

She said her house was among the first to fly the revolution's tricolor flag when Libyan fighters pushed into Bani Walid over the weekend. But deteriorating living conditions, threats from Gadhafi supporters and heavy clashes in the town prompted her family to flee.

"We left Bani Walid because Gadhafi loyalists in control of the local radio announced through airwaves that anyone helping the rebels or part of them will be killed," she said. "A lot of people are scared and now leaving."

The main battle front in Bani Walid is now a bridge that links the town with the port city of Misrata to the northwest. Gadhafi loyalists have covered the pavement with oil slicks and fuel spills to hinder vehicles trying to cross into the city center.

A rebel commander, Abu Ouejeila al-Hbeishi, said Gadhafi snipers have taken up positions on roof tops, including on a hotel, an ancient castle and an administrative building in the town center. Loyalist forces also fired Grad rockets and mortars at revolutionary fighters on the northern edge of Bani Walid, where al-Hawaishi said some 2,000 former rebels have gathered.

NATO, which has played a key role in crippling Gadhafi's military forces since intervening in Libya's civil war in late March, has kept up its attacks on remaining pro-Gadhafi sites. The military alliance said its warplanes hit targets Sunday in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, including a military logistics facility and three surface-to-air missile systems.

The Misrata Military Council said clashes inside Sirte between Gadhafi loyalists and opposition backers has left at least three people dead.

In Tripoli, NTC fighters revealed they had captured Gaddafi's foreign spy chief, Bouzaid Dorda.

Reuters reporters saw Dorda, a former prime minister who ran Gaddafi's external spy service, held by a score of fighters in a house in the capital's Zenata district on Sunday.

A lanky figure in a safari jacket, Dorda was sitting on a sofa with an armed guard beside him. When a fighter asserted that he had killed people, he replied defiantly: "Prove it."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Gadhafi stronghold under fire

Photos: Moammar Gadhafi

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  1. Col. Moammar Gadhafi is seen in Tripoli on Sept. 27, 1969, after leading a military coup that toppled King Idris. Gadhafi has maintained his rule over Libya for more than four decades since the coup. Gadhafi was killed in Sirte on Oct. 20 as revolutionary forces took the last bastion of his supporters. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Gadhafi, left, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, right, arrive in Rabat, Morocco, in December 1969 for the Arab Summit Conference. (Benghabit / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Col. Gadhafi, left, jokes with a group of British hippies in Tripoli in July 1973. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gadhafi was purportedly a major financier of the Black September movement, a band of Palestinian militants. Its members perpetrated the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. One of the Black September guerrillas who broke into the Olympic Village is seen in this picture. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gadhafi during the summit of the Organization of African Unity on Aug. 4, 1975, in Kampala, Uganda. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Flowers are laid at the memorial to Yvonne Fletcher, a British police constable who was shot dead by terrorists in April 1984 while on duty during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London. Fletcher's death led to an 11-day police siege of the embassy and a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Libya and the United Kingdom. (Fox Photos via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Gadhafi and his second wife Safiya wave to the crowd upon their arrival in Dakar, Senegal, for a three-day official visit on Dec. 3, 1985. Gadhafi has eight biological children, six by Safiya. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, fourth from left, and West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, fifth from left, inspect the damage following an April 5, 1986, bombing at a Berlin discotheque frequented by American serveicemen. Libya was blamed for the blast, which killed three and injured more than 200. Then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan retaliated by ordering airstrikes against the Libyan capital of Tripoli and city of Benghazi. (Wolfgang Mrotzkowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. French policemen and army soldiers unload crates of arms and ammunition seized aboard the Panamian merchant ship Eksund on Nov. 3, 1987 at Brest military port in France. A huge supply of arms and explosives purportedly supplied by Libya and destined for the Irish Republican Army was found aboard the vessel. (Andre Durand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. This Dec. 22, 1988, photo shows the wreckage of the Pan Am airliner that exploded and crashed over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people - most of them Americans. Gadhafi has accepted Libya's responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. Libya's ex-justice minister was recently quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Gadhafi personally ordered the bombing. (Letkey / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, right, welcomes Gadhafi upon his arrival at Tunis airport on Jan. 10, 1990. (Frederic Neema / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is escorted by security officers in Tripoli on Feb. 18, 1992. Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. (Manoocher Deghati / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, accompanies Gadhafi on a tour at the pyramids of Giza on Jan. 19, 1993. (Aladin Abdel Naby / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian border policeman counts passports belonging to Palestinians waiting at the post in Salloum for transit to the Gaza Strip on Sept. 12, 1995. Families were stranded at the border with Libya after Gadhafi decided to expel 30.000 Palestinians, reportedly in order to call attention to the political situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (Amr Nabil / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Libyan women bodyguards provide security for VIPs during a military parade in Green Square on Sept. 1, 2003, to mark the 34th anniversary of Gadhafi's acension to power. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Family members of people killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, read documents on Sept. 12, 2003, as the U.N. Security Council votes to lift sanctions against Libya for the 1988 bombing. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, left, flew to Libya in 2004 to hold talks with Gadhafi inside a Bedouin tent. Here, Blair and and Gadhafi stroll to a separate tent in Tripoli for lunch during a break in their talks. Blair's role was particularly vital in Gadhafi's international rehabilitation. He praised the leader for ending Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons program and stressed the need for new security alliances in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Stefan Rousseau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. U.S. President George W. Bush looks at material and equipment surrendered by Libya, during a tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on July 12, 2004. Bush officially lifted the U.S. trade embargo against Libya on Sept. 20, 2004. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. View of the remains of Gadhafi's bombed-out headquarters, now turned into a living memento, inside his compound in Tripoli on Oct. 15, 2004. The sculpture in the center represents a golden fist grabbing a U.S. jet fighter. U.S. jets bombed Tripoli, killing Gadhafi's adopted 4-year-old daughter, in April 1986 in retaliation for the Berlin discotheque bombing. (John Macdougall / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by Gadhafi in Tripoli on July 25, 2007. Sarkozy arrived for a meeting with the Libyan leader a day after the release of six foreign medics from a Libyan prison. (Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Gadhafi's son Saif, center, attends a ceremony in the southern Libyan city of Ghiryan on Aug. 18, 2007, to mark the arrival of water from the Great Manmade River, a project to pipe water from desert wells to coastal communities. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gadhafi looks at a Russian-language edition of his book "The Green Book" during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 17, 2008, in Tripoli. Putin was in Libya for a two-day visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations. (Artyom Korotayev / Epsilon via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gadhafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the eastern city of Benghazi on Libya's Mediterranean coast on Aug. 30, 2008. Berlusconi apologized to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signed a $5 billion investment deal by way of compensation. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gadhafi poses with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior to a meeting in Tripoli on Sept. 5, 2008. Rice arrived in Libya on the first such visit in more than half a century, marking a new chapter in Washington's reconciliation with the former enemy state. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gadhafi attends the closing session of the Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, on March 30, 2009. (Marwan Naamani / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Gadhafi waves after delivering a speech during a meeting with 700 women from the business, political and cultural spheres on June 12, 2009, in Rome. The Libyan strongman drew cheers and jeers when he criticized Islam's treatment of women but then suggested it should be up to male relatives to decide if a woman can drive. (Christophe Simon / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. U.S .President Barack Obama shakes hands with Gadhafi during the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9, 2009. (Michael Gottschalk / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, top left, is accompanied by Seif al-Islam el-Gadhafi, son of the Libyan leader, upon his arrival at the airport in Tripoli on Aug. 20, 2009. Scotland freed the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that he should be shown no mercy. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, top center, listens in apparent misery as Gadhafi speaks on Sept. 23, 2009, at U.N. headquarters in New York. It was Gadhafi's first appearance before the U.N., and he emptied out much of the chamber with an exhaustive 95-minute speech in which he criticized the decision-making structure of the world body and called for investigations of all the wars and assassinations that have taken place since the U.N.'s founding. (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Gadhafi greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island on Sept. 27, 2009. Chavez and Gadhafi urged African and South American leaders to strive for a new world order countering Western economic dominance. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Gadhafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a group picture of Arab and African leaders ahead of the opening of the second Arab-African summit in the coastal town of Sirte, Libya, on Oct. 10, 2010. Ben Ali and Mubarak were driven out of power by popular revolts in 2011. (Sabri Elmehedwi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Gadhafi is followed by members of the press in Tripoli before making a speech hoping to defuse tensions on March 2. Gadhafi blamed al-Qaida for creating turmoil and told applauding supporters there was a conspiracy to control Libya and its oil. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyan rebels step on a picture of Gadhafi at a checkpoint in Tripoli's Qarqarsh district on Aug. 22. Libyan government tanks and snipers put up a scattered, last-ditch effort in Tripoli on Monday after rebels swept into the heart of the capital, cheered on by crowds hailing the end of Gadhafi's 42 years in power. (Bob Strong / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man in Tripoli holds a photo said to be of Moammar Gadhafi after the announcement of the former leader's death, Oct. 20, 2011. Gadhafi was killed when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after the regime fell. (Abdel Magid Al-fergany / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: TO GO WITH AFP PACKAGE ON THE 40TH ANNIV
    AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years
  2. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
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    Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
  3. Image:
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    Slideshow (13) Tripoli following Gadhafi's fall

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