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Libyan fighters close in on Bani Walid

Libyan anti-Gaddafi fighters are closing in on Bani Walid. This makeshift checkpoint has been set up just 15 kilometres from the staunch Gaddafi stronghold. Negotiations between Libya's ruling interim council and the Bani Walid tribal elders have so far failed to bring about a peaceful resolution to the stalemate, and a resumption of bloodshed looks increasingly likely. Bani Walid is the traditional home of Libya's largest and most powerful tribe, and some of its most senior figures were beneficiaries of the Gaddafi regime. The current whereabouts of Gaddafi are unknown, though some believe he may have crossed into neighbouring Niger, a country with which he has strong ties. Many here revere the former Libyan leader, who for decades lavished his oil wealth on development projects in the country, and was a major voice of the anti-colonial movement. This man fought on Gaddafi's side until Tripoli fell to forces loyal to the National Transitional Council. (SOUNDBITE) MOHAMED WANIGLI, EX-COMBATANT IN LIBYA, SAYING: "I went to Libya to help our Guide Muammar Gaddafi. It's our duty to help him at this difficult moment when several Western countries, helped by some of Gaddafi's brothers, got united to throw him out of power. I am convinced that Gaddafi is a great pan-African thinker, who helped our country a lot, and that's what white people don't like in him. We went to help crush these white people who descended on our Guide to destroy Libya." With the fall of the Gaddafi regime, there has been a backlash against dark-skinned Africans in the country, many of whom are accused of having fought with Gaddafi forces as mercenaries. This group of asylum seekers has been trapped in Janzour port, near Tripoli, for nearly two months, due to the deteriorating security situation. The International Migration Organisation has begun registering asylum seekers, with a view to helping them find a permanent solution to their plight. (SOUNDBITE) (English) OTHMAN YALBAS, OPERATION OFFICER AT IOM: "We started with preparing a list of those willing to go home to explain to them it should be fully voluntary return and it should be their decision if they want to go back home. And for those who are not willing to return, we will be referring their names to other humanitarian organizations." The asylum seekers say they have been given three choices: to stay in Libya, to return to their home country, or move on to a third country provided they are afforded the necessary paperwork. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.

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