A reward of over €1m is on offer for anyone able to capture Colonel Muammar Gaddafi dead or alive as it emerged today that the SAS was leading the hunt for the Libyan despot.
The offer of two million Libyan dinars came as the French president Nicolas Sarkozy called a conference in Paris next Thursday to discuss plans to rebuild Libya.
The “friends of Libya” meeting will include representatives from the countries which took part in the offensive against Gaddafi’s regime as well as China, Russia, India and Brazil.
In a statement, Downing Street said the conference was a joint Franco-British initiative.
A Number 10 spokesman added: “We have stood firmly by the Libyan people since their uprisings began six months ago and we will continue to lead international efforts to help them achieve their aspirations in the weeks and months ahead.”
Soldiers from the elite 22 SAS Regiment are reported to be helping rebel fighters track down 69-year-old Gaddafi after his heavily-fortified compound in Tripoli was seized following fierce clashes with loyalists.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the SAS soldiers, dressed in Arab civilian clothing and armed with the same weapons as the locals, have been hunting for the despot on the ground in Libya on the orders of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Sources told the newspaper the SAS had been operating in Libya for several weeks, but a Ministry of Defence spokesman said the department never commented on special forces operations.
Elsewhere, 35 foreign journalists held at Tripoli’s Hotel Rixos were released unharmed but soldiers loyal to Gaddafi still appear to hold pockets of territory, kidnapping four Italian journalists and killing their driver as the group travelled towards the capital.
Two French journalists were also wounded in fighting around Gaddafi’s compound in the capital.
In London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was time the Libyan dictator recognised his brutal 42-year rule was over and order his forces to stand down.
As well as supporting the reward for anyone capturing Gaddafi, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council, offered amnesty to “members of (Gaddafi’s) close circle who kill him or capture him”.
Earlier, jubilant rebel fighters swept through the capital following the successful siege of the despot’s heavily-fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound.
After storming the luxury home, they raised the new Libyan flag over buildings and looted Gaddafi’s personal possessions, including his famous colonel’s hat - effectively ending the regime.
And some of Gaddafi’s closest allies in government appeared to be deserting him as Nicaragua apparently offered him asylum.
Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, Gaddafi’s former foreign minister, told Channel 4 News that the regime had come to an end. Speaking from Tripoli, he said the rebels were now responsible for restoring law and order to Libya.
But Gaddafi was still resisting arrest as he went on the run. He said it was a “tactical” move to flee his base in Tripoli, adding that he had gone on a discreet tour of the Libyan capital and did not feel in danger.
As rebel fighters searched the city, the dictator told residents in a poor-quality telephone address on local television that they must “cleanse” Tripoli of his regime’s enemies and free it from the “devils” who have overrun it.
Al-Orouba TV also broadcast what it said was a telephone interview with government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, who said Libya would be turned into a “burning volcano and a fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents”.